If you suspect ANIMAL ABUSE or NEGLECT, or believe you have witnessed such, please call your LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT Agency.  If you make a report to police, Law Enforcement IS REQUIRED by law to Investigate your report. You may file your complaint below to notify us, once your complaint is received, a humane investigator will review your complaint and be in touch with you to get more information if needed, or take proper steps within the law to address. 

Smith County Sheriffs Office: 615.735.2626

Carthage Animal Control (Carthage City Limits): During Business Hours 615.735.1881 or AFTER HOURS: 615.735.2525

South Carthage Animal Control (South Carthage City Limits): 615.735.2727 

Gordonsville Police: 615.683.6088

You may also file a complaint here, please NOTE, if this is an emergency, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT, if you can not reach your city enforcement, please call the SMITH COUNTY SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT for assistance. 

REPORTING ANONYMOUSLY: If you wish to report anonymously, you may do so, however please be aware, that the more information we have, witnesses, etc the better chance that we will be able to address the situation. You can provide your information to us directly, your information would not be disclosed to anyone other than local law enforcement without your consent, and would not be used unless legal action is taken against the party in question. WE DO NOT reveal WHO reported, at any time, to the owner of the animals under any circumstances and will do the best we can to protect your identity. 


If you are unsure as to what you have witnessed is or is not animal cruelty or neglect, always err on the side of caution and let the proper authorities determine if it is or is not within local ordinances or Tennessee State Laws. ALL BLUE LINKS BELOW LINK YOU DIRECTLY TO THE TENNESSEE LAW CONCERNING THE EXAMPLE. Feel free to use this as a resource when you are dealing with law enforcement or deciding what to report!

The following information may help you to determine if you are witnessing animal neglect or cruelty.

Defining Cruelty:  Most complaints fall under NEGLECT with direct violence occurring less. The following examples may help you to categorize suspected cruelty you do see and to understand the animal welfare LAWS that exist in TENNESSEE. 

Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-202 defines Animal Cruelty as:

(a) A person commits an offense who intentionally or knowingly: 

(1) Tortures, maims or grossly overworks an animal; 

(2) Fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person's custody; 

(3) Abandons unreasonably an animal in the person's custody; 

(4) Transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner; or 

(5) Inflicts burns, cuts, lacerations, or other injuries or pain, by any method, including blistering compounds, to the legs or hooves of horses in order to make them sore for any purpose including, but not limited to, competition in horse shows and similar events. 

(b) A person commits an offense who knowingly ties, tethers, or restrains a dog in a manner that results in the dog suffering bodily injury as defined in § 39-11-106.

TCA 39-11-106. (a) (3) “Bodily injury” includes a cut, abrasion, bruise, burn or disfigurement, and physical pain or temporary illness or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty;

TCA 39-11-106.(a) (36)  “Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury that involves: 

(A) A substantial risk of death; 

(B) Protracted unconsciousness; 

(C) Extreme physical pain; 

(D) Protracted or obvious disfigurement; 

(E) Protracted loss or substantial impairment of a function of a bodily member, organ or mental faculty; or 

(F) A broken bone of a child who is twelve (12) years of age or less;

Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-212 defines Aggravated Cruelty to Animals as:

(a) A person commits aggravated cruelty to animals when, with aggravated cruelty and with no justifiable purpose, the person intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal. 

(b) For purposes of this section: 

(1) “Aggravated cruelty” means conduct which is done or carried out in a depraved and sadistic manner and which tortures or maims an animal, including the failure to provide food and water to a companion animal resulting in a substantial risk of death or death; 

(2) “Companion animal” means any non-livestock animal as defined in § 39-14-201; 

(3) “Elderly” means any person sixty-five (65) years of age or older; and 

(4) “Minor” means any person under eighteen (18) years of age.


Neglect, or a failure to provide basic needs for an animal, makes up the vast majority of cruelty cases that animal control, law enforcement, and humane officers respond to. Neglect often includes hoarding, lack of shelter or veterinary care, tethering and abandonment, as well as other forms of abuse. We will cover some examples of those below. NEGLECT often falls under the "CARE" aspect of TCA 39-14-202 when not otherwise covered by a specific statute. Additional specific state statutes are included with each example below. Note: Your county or municipality can enact STRONGER statutes for your specific area, in the absence of STRONGER or more well defined statutes, the STATE statute is enforceable. 


It can be very upsetting to see someone beating or physically attacking an animal, but it's important not to turn away. It's crucial to involve law enforcement quickly, as violence toward animals is often part of a larger pattern of violence that can include people as well.


If you witness suspected cruelty to animals, call your local animal control agency as soon as possible or dial 9-1-1 if you’re unfamiliar with local organizations. ALL EMERGENCIES should be called into LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT FIRST, then report made here. If you make a report of alleged animal cruelty, the responding agency is required to investigate. Be sure to document the case as well as you can with dates, times, specific details and, if possible, footage and photographs from a cell phone. All of these things can help appropriate agencies during any investigation they may do of the suspected cruelty.



Hoarding behavior often victimizes animals. Sufferers of a hoarding disorder may impose severe neglect on animals by housing far more than they are able to adequately take care of. Contact your local animal control agency, law enforcement, and humane organization, if you find out about or suspect animal hoarding. Some animal hoarding situations can be more difficult than others to solve.


Untreated wounds are often a red flag that demand immediate attention; emaciation (Loss of weight, ribs or hip bones showing), scabs and hair loss can also be a sign of untreated diseases. If you can, alert the owner to the animal's condition and alert local authorities of suspected neglect as soon as possible. If you can take photos safely, please do so. It will help to document the complaint and help your animal officers with valuable information to investigate your complaint. 


In extreme heat or cold, temperatures can be deadly. It can seem daunting or unnecessary to report neglect for inadequate sheltering, but conditions can change quickly, causing suffering or even death of the animal. Contact a local animal control agency immediately if you see an animal in inadequate shelter and document the incident with a cell phone camera if possible. FOR LIVESTOCK: TREES in which the livestock can get under are considered acceptable shelter in Tennessee under Tennessee law. However, if you are concerned, you can still file a report, and humane or animal officers can determine if it is or is not acceptable given the specific circumstances. 


Dogs who are tethered continuously suffer tremendously, both from social isolation and exposure to predators and the elements. Tennessee Law,  local Smith County ordinances, and local municipality ordinances do NOT prohibit the use of tethers/chains to contain dogs. However, the dog must have access to food, water, and shelter AT ALL TIMES while on the chain. Tennessee LAW also states that if a dog is INJURED while on a chain it is considered animal cruelty and neglect. If you see a dog chained during inclement weather WITHOUT appropriate shelter, or THE CHAIN is wrapped in a fashion where the dog can not access food water or shelter CALL LAW ENFORCEMENT immediately and let us know. TCA 39-14-202 (a)(5)(b) A person commits an offense who knowingly ties, tethers, or restrains a dog in a manner that results in the dog suffering bodily injury as defined in § 39-11-106.


A startling number of animals die every year when people move out of their residences and simply leave the animals behind. Sometimes an abandoned dog's barking or cat's howling can alert the neighbors, but it's wise to keep an eye on a recently vacated home, especially if the former residents moved suddenly. Companion animals kept in cages or tanks are often overlooked upon a resident's sudden passing, hospitalization, etc and may suffer neglect as well. If you find or know of abandoned animals, contact your local animal control agency or law enforcement immediately, and let us know below. 


Time is of the essence when reporting pets left in parked cars. Even if the outside temperature seems cool, these animals could be minutes away from death or irreversible organ damage. If you cannot locate the owner immediately, don’t be afraid to call local authorities, detailing your location and the make, model and license plate number of the vehicle the animal is inside. Tennessee LAW  T. C. A. § 29-34-209 grants a person who forcibly breaks into a motor vehicle to save a minor or animal immunity from civil liability. READ T. C. A. § 29-34-209


If you witness direct physical violence to an animal, report the incident immediately to local law enforcement authorities. If you decide to intervene in any way, use your best judgement and do not become physically involved in the situation; remember, even well-intentioned actions could compromise the process of investigation into suspected abuse, and could also put you in harms way. If you can grab your cell phone camera and video that is always helpful. Getting tag numbers from vehicles or photo/video etc and any pertinent information helps law enforcement to better help the animal. 


Organized cruelty, such as dogfighting, cockfighting and other blood sports, is illegal in all 50 states and is linked to other criminal activities such as human violence, gambling and drug distribution. If you hear about or witness events like these, immediately report them to the local authorities and your local animal welfare organizations. TCA 39-14-203


Tennessee has a LEASH LAW, that applies to the ENTIRE STATE, including counties without animal control or additional ordinances. If you find an estray dog (dog with no collar or tag to identify), a lost dog (dog with collar or tag), or an injured dog, PLEASE CALL YOUR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OR ANIMAL CONTROL. If this dog is a frequent offender (is allowed to roam freely every day, is a nuisance to you or other neighbors, is a safety risk, etc. Please let us know below). Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-408 (b):  The owner of a dog commits an offense if that dog goes uncontrolled by the owner upon the premises of another without the consent of the owner of the premises or other person authorized to give consent, or goes uncontrolled by the owner upon a highway, public road, street or any other place open to the public generally. For more information on animals at large - please see TENNESSEE ANIMALS AT LARGE. 

These are just common examples of animal cruelty. Even if a case doesn’t fit neatly into these categories, take action if something feels off. In many cases, you may be the only chance an animal has at escaping cruelty or neglect.


City Of Carthage Animal Ordinances

 Tennessee Department of Agriculture - Livestock Animal Welfare Information and Complaint Form