Animal Services Vet Message - Abuse vs Neglect
How to Identify Animal Abuse and Neglect
Animal cruelty can take the forms of neglect and physical abuse. You should quickly report direct violence, such as an owner beating their animal, to local emergency services; however, it can be more difficult to identify other signs of neglect and abuse. Behavior can be a red flag, but can’t alone confirm neglect or abuse. Look for signs of animal hoarding, lack of veterinary care, consistently dirtied appearance, malnutrition, and tethering in extreme weather for long periods of time. Notice wounds that might indicate animal fighting or physical abuse. Keep track of what you witness with written and, if possible, photographic documentation. Report your suspicions and evidence to local authorities to put a stop to the cruelty you’ve witnessed.
Spotting the Signs of Neglect
Be aware of behavioral cues.While behavior alone cannot confirm animal abuse or neglect, it can be a strong indicator. An abused or neglected animal might be aggressive, timid, or fearful. It might lash out at humans and other animals, or might cower away from its owner or passersby.
- Since these behaviors can’t prove that an animal has been neglected or abused, it’s important to look for physical signs of cruelty or, if possible, observe its living conditions.
Notice hoarding behavior.Be on the lookout for signs that a neighbor or someone you know owns too many animals. Consider the size of their living space, and how adequate that space is for the number of animals you’ve seen. Note if stray animals gather in a yard or close by the residence.
- If you see any of the animals in residence, try to distinguish how many live at the suspicious location. Try to identify their physical condition, and look for signs of malnutrition or lack of veterinary care.
Recognize signs of starvation.Look for breed- and species-specific signs of malnutrition. Compare the animal in question to what’s considered normal for its species, breed, or mix of breeds.
- For example, a Greyhound and a Rottweiler each have particular body types and builds. Seeing rib bones might not be as alarming a sight in a Greyhound.
- Look for behavior cues like dizziness, confusion, trouble standing or walking, and excessive scavenging.
Keep track of tethered or chained dogs.Chaining dogs outside for long periods of time can be life threatening, especially in periods of extreme weather. If you see a dog chained in a neighbor’s yard, try to keep track of how long it’s unattended and that day’s weather conditions.
- If you’re concerned about a chained dog, you can call your local humane society or animal shelter anonymously to have an animal control officer visit the pet owner and discuss safety issues.
Look for matted fur, parasite infestation, or dental diseases.Preventive care is a must for any pet for its own well being and for disease control. Obvious signs that an animal lacks veterinary care are key indicators of neglect.
- Notice the condition of its fur, such as matting or consistent dirtiness. Look for patches of missing fur, skin flakes, or patches of redness or irritation. Keep track of how long you observe these conditions without any indication of veterinary care.
- Look for signs of fleas, ticks, and other parasite infestations, like excessive scratching and self-biting. Examine the fur for parasites if you can do so safely, such as if the animal belongs to a friend or family member. Avoid physical contact with animals that are unfamiliar with you.
Identifying Physical Abuse
Identify wounds associated with animal fighting.Bite and claw marks at various stages of healing indicate animal fighting. Notice if scars or wounds do not match the teeth and claws of the animal you suspect has suffered cruelty.
- For example, if you suspect a dog has been subjected to dog fighting, look for bite marks that might be consistent with another dog’s jaw size, particularly at the face, neck, and front portions of its body. While spotting wounds once might not be suspicious, be aware if the animal consistently shows signs of fighting injuries.
Look for wounds at various stages of healing.In addition to wounds obviously inflicted by another animal, notice any series of wounds that indicate prolonged violence. Be suspicious if one skin abrasion, scratch, or burn shows signs of healing while another is fresh.
- For example, abrasions around the neck from a tight collar might appear to be healing one day then appear to be fresh the next time you see the animal. Other examples of suspicious injuries include possible cigarette burns or sudden bleeding from orifices.
Be aware of broader violent behavior.Note if the pet owner you suspect of animal cruelty has ever exhibited violent behavior. If you interact with that person consistently, be aware of any shouting or yelling, frequent intoxication, or throwing or destroying objects.
- Research has shown that behaviors like animal abuse, property damage, and domestic violence are all interrelated. For this reason and for your own safety, avoid confronting the person you suspect on your own.
Reporting Animal Cruelty
Avoid putting yourself in danger.In addition to putting yourself at risk of physical harm, you should avoid confronting the person you suspect of animal cruelty for legal reasons. In most jurisdictions, it’s unlawful to enter someone else’s property without their permission, even if an animal’s safety is at risk.
- In some areas, it is lawful to break into a locked car if an animal is kept inside in extreme heat. Contact a local animal shelter, vet, or search online for more information about your local regulations.
- Keep in the mind any animals that you suspect suffer abuse or neglect are unpredictable and could attack you if you approach them, their territory, or owner.
Prepare a written statement.When you see evidence of abuse or neglect, write down all relevant details. Note the date, time, location, and a thorough description of the suspicious behavior or physical signs of cruelty. Keep a written record and if you believe that you’ve documented enough evidence, prepare a written report to present to authorities.
- Timing is relative to the type of behavior you witness. For example, if you see a person beating an animal, you’ll want to note the date, time, and location and either call your local animal control agency or emergency services. If you observe lack of cleanliness or an obvious lack of preventive care, you might decide it’s best to compile a written record over a period of days or weeks.
- Keep in mind it’s important to report direct violence to animal control or emergency services quickly. If you see an animal being abused, not only is its well being at risk, but that violent act could indicate that the perpetrator is also abusing other animals or people.
Photograph signs of cruelty if possible.If it’s safe and feasible, photographic evidence can be helpful in reporting animal cruelty, especially if there is little physical evidence of violence. Cell phone footage has become an effective way of proving animal cruelty, so record direct violence if you see it.
- Record inhumane living conditions only if you can do so without violating someone’s personal property.
Contact local authorities or make an online complaint.There are plenty of ways to anonymously report any signs of animal cruelty that you’ve identified. The easiest is to call emergency services or animal control, but you should be aware that you might be asked to testify against the perpetrator.
- While you can report animal cruelty to law enforcement or animal control anonymously, providing your information and being willing to testify will help ensure the case will be pursued.
- If you live in the United States and see evidence of abuse in farm animals or undomesticated animals, you can contact the US Department of Agriculture directly by calling (301) 851-3751 or filing a complaint using their online form: .
Report a puppy mill or an inhumane breeder.If you are concerned about a puppy mill, pet store, or inhumane breeder, you can contact the USDA using their phone number or complaint form. You can also contact them for help finding the right regional department to report inhumane breeding practices. You should be prepared to make a written statement in the same way you would if you witnessed other forms of abuse and neglect.
Talk to a friend or family member about their animal care.It can be difficult to approach a friend or family member about animal abuse or neglect, whether they are a child or your elderly relative. Try to take a delicate and tactful approach: get support from other family members, talk to them about the situation, and consider anonymously contacting animal control.
- If your elderly relative owns more animals than they can properly care for, try to intervene with the help of other family members. Be gentle and understanding when you approach them. Say, "We know you really love your pets, and that they give you a lot of comfort. But we're concerned that there could be difficulty in offering them the best care. We need to find new homes for some of them so that they can be happier."
- If your child has abused an animal, have a serious discussion with them about it. Let them know they should never intentionally harm an animal. Animal cruelty is not recognized as a natural stage of child development. Inform their teachers and guidance counselors so that they can also look for signs of displaced hostility at school. Consider taking your child to a therapist or other mental healthcare professional.
- If your friend or family member disregards your concern, remember that animal abuse and neglect can often point to more significant problems, including child neglect and domestic violence. It might not be a comfortable thought, but if you don't believe you or another relative can make a significant intervention, consider notifying animal control or other authorities. Remember you can do so anonymously.
QuestionCan dogs be mentally abused as well? My mom yells at my dog, and it causes my dog (she's a beagle) to panic. It's not helping the dog at all. What should I do?Crumpet DogCommunity AnswerYou could talk her to about it and tell her that you don't like her yelling at your dog. You can also offer her other ways of training, etc. Tell her that what she's doing isn't helping.Thanks!
QuestionMy dad abuses my dog. My mom knows and she knows it upsets me. I tell him to stop and he doesn't. My mom said I should be glad it is not me, but I wish it was me. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTell another adult. A person who abuses animals is very likely to start abusing people as well. Your mom's comments are borderline abusive too. Tell someone at school, like a guidance counselor or a teacher, or if the abuse is really bad, tell the police. Keep speaking up until someone helps you. You don't have to live like this, and neither does your dog.Thanks!
What if my dad doesn't stop telling no matter what I say?
Video: 168 Animal abuse, cruelty and neglect. WHY are these Animals involved?
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