Animal Cruelty Investigations

The Rhode Island SPCA is the only non-profit animal welfare organization in the state of Rhode Island that is legally able to investigate and arrest for acts of animal cruelty. Our Animal Cruelty Officers are referred to as Special Agents, and have the same power and authority to arrest as any officer authorized to serve criminal process for the purpose of enforcing any of the laws of this state in relation to cruelty to animals, and that power and authority extends throughout the State. Our authority is granted statutorily under Rhode Island General Law 4-1-21.


The Rhode Island SPCA receives hundreds of animal cruelty complaints each year, but we are not an emergency response agency. Please call your local police or State Police, if an animal is in imminent peril. If you wish to file an animal cruelty complaint with the Rhode Island SPCA, please contact our Division of Law Enforcement at 401-438-8150 ext 2.

The complaints we receive fall into three major categories:

  • Misguided Complaints: In these cases, the complainant incorrectly believes that a violation has occurred. The reporting person believes that the facts they are reporting justify the complaint. In most cases, after explaining the law to the complainant, they understand why their complaint does not meet the legal requirements for an investigation of animal cruelty.
  • Vindictive Complaints: These are made to cause trouble, embarrassment or harassment. The reporting person knows the facts are not true.
  • Legitimate Complaints: These are complaints based on known facts and, if true, may violate the law and require an investigation.