To most, pets are family, but heartbreakingly, not everyone treats them as such. Unfortunately, animal abuse or neglect are all too common these days, which means more and more pets are at risk of harm.
The best way to prevent animal abuse is proper observation and prevention. By understanding what constitutes abuse, knowing the tell-tale signs, and finding the right resources to help you track and report this abuse, you can help an animal before it’s too late.
The first thing to know about animal cruelty is that it isn't limited to just physical abuse. It can be both physical and mental, which doesn't always make it easy to spot. And when you take into consideration that it often happens behind closed doors, it's even harder to understand the full impact abuse may have on a pet.
So what is animal abuse? Abuse comes in all forms, so it's essential to understand exactly what constitutes abuse before reporting:
- Neglect: Leaving a pet alone for an extended period, not taking care of its basic needs, or ignoring them.
- Beating: Inflicting intentional physical pain on a pet.
- Hoarding: Having too many pets to manage, leading to health problems for all involved.
- Lack of Vet Care: Not taking a pet for regular vet checks or not seeking medical care when required.
- Inadequate Shelter: Leaving a pet outside in inclement weather.
- Chained Dogs: Leaving a dog chained in a yard for extended periods, restricting its movement.
- Abandonment: The discarding of a pet or leaving it behind.
- Exposing to Hostile Environments: Leaving a dog in a hot car.
- Animal Fights: Organized fights involving animals for entertainment or money.
What to Watch For
Sometimes abuse is apparent, and other times it isn’t always clear whether an animal is being harmed. However, there are some key signs to look for in a pet if you think they are being abused:
- Behaviour Changes: If you see that a pet is acting strangely, or different than they usually do, this is a primary indicator of animal neglect.
- Eating Less: When a pet eats or drinks less often than usual, this could be an indicator of physical or mental distress. In cases like this, it’s best to get a vet to check them out right away so they can be examined by a professional.
- Urinating in Strange Places: Most pets are creatures of habit, usually following the same routine day in and day out. But if you see that a pet is relieving itself inside, in places it usually wouldn’t, or around people that intimidate it, this can be a sign of it trying to get your attention.
- Constant Whimpering: All pets whine, but if it becomes more consistent, this could be a red flag. In cases like this, it can be a sign of trauma. To get to the root cause, it’s best to monitor them closely to see if this is just temporary behaviour or a more persistent issue.
- Changes to Skin or Fur: If you notice cuts on a pet’s skin, dried blood in their fur, matted fur, or bald spots, this can indicate a lack of care and potential harm caused by physical abuse.
- Development of Separation Anxiety: Animals typically miss their owners when they’re gone, but some show signs of separation anxiety when they leave on a daily basis. If you notice a pet showing new signs of separation anxiety, this can be an indicator of abuse or fear of being left behind. The usual signs of separation anxiety are when they follow you around your home more often than before, or persistent whimpers when you leave.
How and Where to Report Abuse
The best places to report animal abuse are to your local animal control agency or police. Once you file a report, that agency is required to investigate, which is why it’s essential to document the abuse you’ve seen. In cases where there are not enough resources to conduct a full investigation, or there is no animal control agency, you can also contact the Humane Society for advice and assistance.
Even if you see the signs of abuse and have a decent understanding of the circumstances around it, reporting it is not as simple as calling 9-1-1. If you suspect abuse, you need to document what you see to prove a pattern of behaviour. By providing evidence, it will make it easier for the pet to be removed from the abusive environment once investigated.