Here’s Exactly How You Can Spot Animal Abuse In Your Community
The statistics don’t lie.
As many as 1,400 pets are neglected or abused each year, and many of these animals do not survive to the next, according to Humane Society statistics in 2011. Even more cases go unreported, but the signs are there, and some of those animals may yet have a chance if those who see something say something.
Animal abuse is illegal in every state and has been linked to other violent crimes, like violence against children, Pets for Patriots reports.
So is animal abuse happening in your community?
If you see someone abusing an animal, you should contact the police department or call 9-1-1 immediately. But there’s a greater chance it’s happening behind closed doors, and if you know what to look for, you could make a big difference in the life of an animal in need.
Keep in mind, the worst thing you can do is nothing.
Here are the most common signs of animal abuse:
9. No Food or Water
An animal left alone without food or water may already be on edge, wondering where its next meal will come from. Happening regularly enough, such neglect can lead to aggression and long-term behavioral issues.
But even in the worst conditions, there is still hope.
A dog named Duke was chained up alone outside every day without food or water for five years before he was rescued by volunteers from the Ilioupolis Animal Welfare Union. He was then transferred from squalor in rural Greece to a happy new forever home in Denmark, where he’s been flourishing ever since.
8. No Shelter
Even when the weather isn’t bad, an animal outdoors still needs shelter from the sun. Left outdoors without proper shelter, pets are much more prone to suffer from illness and injury.
During the winter, an outdoor pet shelter is imperative. Animals left in the cold without respite from the elements are much more likely to suffer from frostbite or even freeze to death. According to TODAY, staff from the Detroit Dog Rescue are finding frozen animals on a regular basis.
“We’re finding dogs dead in dog houses and strays curled up deceased in fields,” Detroit Dog Rescue founder Kristina Millman-Rinaldi told TODAY. “It’s maddening, sad, and discouraging.”
7. Fleas, flies, or parasites
A clean and healthy animal is just that, and animals suffering from chronic bites or infestation are often not getting the care they deserve.
If animal abuse is observed and documented, animal control officers have an easier time enforcing the law. In 2016, a man in Pennsylvania was charged with animal cruelty for neglecting to take his two flea-infested dogs, a Pit Bull and a Pomeranian, to a veterinarian.
“It’s something usually very easily treated when it’s treated when you first start to notice it, but when it gets to what his is then it does become much harder to treat and a much longer process,” Lycoming County SPCA staff member Kabrina Schweikert told WNEP.
6. Lack of Supervision
It’s one of the most common forms of animal cruelty, the Humane Society maintains, stressing pet supervision at all times, and especially when temperatures are low. “Our most constant companions—dogs and cats—feel the effects of winter weather as much as we do, only they are often cast outside to weather the cold or a storm owing to a misconception that the fur on their backs will insulate them from suffering. Without proper shelter, food, and water, these domesticated animals’ chances of survival in frigid temperatures is greatly decreased.”
If you do see an animal being left alone outside for long periods of time, you can document the case by writing down the date, time, and location of the sighting, along with the type of animal you observed. Images and video are even more helpful to animal control agents.
5. Unsanitary Conditions
Puppy mills and hoarding situations are two of the most common environments for unsanitary living conditions, but even single pets can suffer from an unclean home. And left in such conditions for a long enough time, any animal will begin to show signs of anguish.
Deborah L. Hosler, owner of Hosler’s Huskies in northern Michigan, was fined $2,500, placed on probation for 5 years, and ordered not to own or care for any animals during the period after she pled guilty to abandoning 15 Siberian huskies in outdoor kennels.
An anonymous tip led Monroe County Animal Control to find more than 20 dogs being kept outside Hosler’s home.
“The outside kennels were emitting a strong odor, and it was visible that the kennels had not been cleaned for a while,” a Monroe County Animal Control report detailed.
4. Collar too tight
A tight collar isn’t just uncomfortable on walks. After rubbing the animal’s neck raw, tight collars can actually become embedded in a pet’s skin.
A dog owner in Colorado was charged with animal cruelty after animal control officers found Bear, a black chow husky mix, running around a neighborhood unsupervised, Denver’s 7NEWS reports. The dog’s collar was so tight, it could only be removed with surgery.
According to American Humane, failing to loosen your pet’s collar as they grow can lead to injury, strangulation, and death.
3. Matted hair
Animal neglect and abuse should always be reported, and while matted hair may not seem like much of an offense, in some cases it can become serious enough to warrant surgical attention.
Matted hair grows from a nuisance to a serious health concern in a short span of time, but some animals are forced to live with that concern for years.
Living in the home of an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, a cat named “Hidey” had grown a pelt of matted hair so disturbingly thick, a relative of the man had trouble understanding if it was a cat at all.
“At first I thought it was a cat who had a blanket draped over her that she dragged down,” the man said. “But no — it turned out to be Hidey. She hid down in the corner of the cellar. I’m down there with a flashlight looking — it was almost like a horror movie. And I found her hunkering in the corner. Probably very scared. Probably in a lot of pain.”
Another sign of animal abuse is easier seen from close range. Excess discharge from the eyes and nose can indicate an illness that the owner has neglected to treat.
According to Paws, even if you are not sure if you have observed abuse or neglect, you should still report such incidents to animal control. It could make a big difference in the animal’s life, and you won’t necessarily be putting the owner in trouble.
“An animal control officer will make that determination,” the nonprofit maintains. “If no prosecution occurs, at least the officer can educate the person who is caring for the animal in humane treatment.”
1. Old scars and new cuts
Likely one of the worst forms of animal cruelty is forcing them to fight each other. Dog fighting has a presence in the United States, but vigilant animal advocates and control officers are doing great work in eliminating these violent rings.
According to the ASPCA, dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states, but “it continues to occur in every part of the country and in every type of community.”
Whether held in back alleys or underground arenas, the public signs of dog fighting are hard to ignore. Along with a heightened aggressiveness, “fighting dogs may have their ears cropped and tails docked close to their bodies to minimize the animal’s normal body language cues and to limit areas that another dog can grab during a fight,” the ASPCA reports, maintaining that most of these crude surgical procedures are done outside of professional medical supervision, and without anesthetic.
As the scars from one dog fight heal, they will no doubt be opened up and made worse in the next. Those who witness such injuries should report them to animal control officers immediately, or the animal may not have long to live.
“Reporting suspected animal cruelty ensures that animals in jeopardy receive prompt and often lifesaving care,” says ASPCA Special Agent Joann Sandano. “By making a complaint to the police or humane society in your area—you can even do so anonymously—you help ensure that animals in need are rescued and that perpetrators of animal cruelty are brought to justice.”