Alley Cat Allies stands against all acts of cruelty to all cats. We believe that every animal, owned or unowned, indoors or outdoors, deserves to be protected from human cruelty. We advocate for strict enforcement of existing animal cruelty laws and support stronger anti-cruelty measures across the United States and around the world. We seek justice for cats who have been threatened, harmed, or killed.

We recognize the proven relationship between violence toward animals and violence toward people. We encourage all to speak up against acts of animal cruelty, and speak out for stronger laws and enforcement to stop and prevent cruelty perpetrators.

Animal Cruelty: Understanding the Law and the Link

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws criminalizing acts of cruelty toward animals and include felony animal cruelty offenses. Anti-cruelty laws must protect every cat regardless of whether the cat is a pet cat or a community cat (any unowned cat who lives outdoors). Animal cruelty offenders are a threat to the health and safety of all members of our communities.

Research has shown a clear relationship, also known as “The Link,” between violence toward animals and violence toward people. Cruelty to animals is unacceptable and cannot be ignored for the sake of the animals and our fellow man. We must demand that every instance of animal cruelty is investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Learn more about animal cruelty and the law and how violence toward animals is linked to violence toward people.

What is Cruelty?

While each anti-cruelty law characterizes animal cruelty differently, the acts that are typically included are killing, injuring, torturing, neglecting, overworking, and abandoning an animal.

Killing an Animal

Killing an animal as an act of cruelty may seem self-explanatory, but there are numerous exceptions as to when killing is not illegal. For example, millions of animals die in animal shelters across the country each year. Some healthy animals are killed, and others are euthanized, because they are terminally ill or untreatably injured.

While both scenarios are not considered animal cruelty according to the law, Alley Cat Allies does not support the killing of healthy or treatable animals.

Causing Injury to an Animal

Injuring an animal may also appear self-explanatory, but such acts are difficult to investigate. Oftentimes an illegal injury to an animal is only discovered by a veterinarian who can discern between an accidental and an intentional wound.

Animal Torture

Definitions of torture differ significantly. For example, in Texas, torture includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering, while in Utah, torture means intentionally causing or inflicting extreme physical pain to an animal in an especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or exceptionally depraved manner.1

Neglect of an Animal

In the definition of neglect, anti-cruelty laws vary in how much detail is included. For example, in Missouri, neglect is when a person who owns or has custody of an animal fails to provide adequate care or abandons the animal.2 In contrast, Indiana’s anti-cruelty law has a list of neglectful acts that are related to animal restraint, veterinary care, keeping animals outside, and providing food or drink. 3

Overworking Animals

Overworking animals, also referred to as overdriving or overloading, typically refers to the abuse of and lack of care provided to working animals. When the first anti-cruelty law was passed in 1866, overworking horses used for transportation was a major concern of animal advocates.4

Animal Abandonment

Abandonment generally refers to an owner or custodian leaving the animal without providing for the animal’s proper care or without making reasonable arrangements for custody with another person. The purpose is to prohibit people from putting their companion animals outdoors permanently when the animals are accustomed to living with people indoors and being cared for by them.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) does not constitute animal abandonment.

Cats Need Your Help

You can help us fight cruelty and make the world a safer place for cats!

What to Do If a Cat Has Been Harmed or Killed

If you know cats have been injured or threatened by someone, we have information to help with next steps.

If an animal is in immediate danger, call the police right away. Do not wait.


  1. Tex. Pen. Code § 42.092
  2. Mo. Ann. Stat. § 578.009
  3. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-46-3-0.5(4)
  4. N.Y. Rev. Stat. 682.2 (1866)