Disaster & Cruelty

ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team

The ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Group includes animal behaviorists who specialize in helping animals involved in serious crimes. The ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team works with both the victims of animal cruelty cases and the animal perpetrators of serious attacks against people. In both types of situations, the animals involved have often suffered at the hands of people who abuse them, neglect them, and even train them to do bad things. After we rescue these animals from their harsh conditions, the next step is to help them recover.

Helping Shelters

The Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team assists animal welfare organizations by:

  • Evaluating victims of cruelty cases—including animals seized in dogfighting, hoarding, and puppy mill raids—and making recommendations for behavioral rehabilitation and possible adoption.
  • Assisting with the assessment and rehabilitation of animals held as evidence while their abusers are being prosecuted.
  • Offering advice regarding the evaluation, training, and socialization of young animals seized in cruelty cases or born before a case has gone to trial.
  • Counseling organizations on best practices for safeguarding the behavioral health of animals held as evidence. This includes making recommendations for environmental enrichment to reduce the effects of long-term housing that may be needed in a criminal case.
  • Following up with adopters of at-risk animals associated with cruelty cases, providing guidance as requested.

Examples of the Forensic Behavior Team's Work

During the 2007 Michael Vick case, the Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team led a team of certified applied animal behaviorists in behavior evaluations of the rescued dogs, making recommendations to the USDA and U.S. Attorney's office regarding the dispositions of 49 pit bulls from Bad Newz Kennels. At the U.S. Attorney's 2008 Law Enforcement Public Service Awards ceremony, four ASPCA team members were recognized for their invaluable assistance in the Vick investigation.

In July 2009, the ASPCA participated in a multi-state dog fighting raid, the largest federal crackdown on dog fighting in U.S. history. The Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team worked with the Humane Society of Missouri to evaluate 298 adult dogs (almost all pit bulls) and 195 pit bull puppies, and determined suitability for placement with qualified rescue groups or experienced adopters. Our behavior reports supplemented the veterinary medical reports submitted to the U.S. Attorney's office to assist the court in making recommendations for each animal.

Learn More

To contact The ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team, email them at animalbehaviorcenter@aspca.org. Please note, depending on the nature of the case, there may be expenses or service fees.