First of all, go over now and change the locks. You have to leave a posting on the door telling what hours and days of the week a duplicate key will be available. It can be limited to business hours. Are the utilities still on? Are the pets being fed and watered? If the property still has tenant belongings and the key has not been surrendered, the rental has not been abandoned. When you change the locks you need to post a Pay or Quit notice on the door. Also post a 24 hour notice to enter. Acquire the eviction papers and fill them out now. Immediately after your P/Q notice expires serve your eviction notice to the rental address by certified mail. These steps must be done without delay. If you see your tenants, get a forwarding address as you will need it later to send the settlement statement. As a last resort, you can gather up the tenant belongings, take them to a storage unit and pay one months rent. Send a certified mail to advise the tenants. You may deduct this expense and the lock change from the deposit. If the pets are neglected, call and report the animals as abandoned to whatever authority in your area takes these kinds of calls. About the Sheriff...he is giving you bad advice because he does not want to deal with you. Why would you report a crime to a lawyer? Go back to the Sheriff and tell him he needs to take your criminal report and make and investigation.