The good news: all fifty states have laws against animal cruelty. The bad news: the law is only as good as the people who report animal cruelty. If you witness an animal being abused or suspect cruelty, it’s imperative you report the abuse. More likely than not, you’re the only hope for the animal to get help, as well as for charges being filed against the abuser.
And animal abuse is not something to take lightly, by any means. Animal abuse typically signifies other types of abuse. For instance, one study found that animal abuse occurred in 88 percent of homes where child abuse had been discovered. Another study found that up to 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abusers also abuse the family pet. In fact, animal abusers are five times more likely to abuse people.
If you do witness animal abuse, what exactly are the steps to take? Who should you call? Seeing an animal be abused is traumatic, but being prepared helps. Here is a handy breakdown of what to do. Remember it’s important to always speak up but please be prepared so you don’t put yourself (or others) in dangers!
First, Call Your Local Animal Control Agency
Always contact a professional first. If you are unfamiliar with local organizations, dial 911. Animal control agencies are required to investigate if a report of alleged animal cruelty is made,according to the Humane Society of the United States. One Green Planet also offers the largest database of local hotlines to help rescue abandoned, injured, stranded, sick, and lost animals in need. It’s important to contact a professional first before you potentially endanger yourself. While it’s hard to see animal abuse, don’t try to steal the animal because then you could be charged with trespassing.
Document the Abuse
Documenting the abuse in as much detail is crucial. Take note of dates, times, any specific details. Any photos or videos can also be helpful when agencies conduct an investigation. But please don’t put yourself in danger. Don’t enter someone else’s property and use caution when approaching an animal who may be frightened or in pain, according to the ASPCA.
Be persistent! If you’re not getting answers from law-enforcement officers, ask for their supervisor’s contact information. According to PETA, if you have personally witnessed an act of animal cruelty, you can go directly to your local magistrate or police commissioner and ask for a warrant to summon the abuser to court. The animal rights organization also notes that expert witnesses can be helpful, such as a veterinarian signing a statement that in his or her “expert opinion”.
And what exactly is animal cruelty?
The ASPCA also offers a comprehensive list of physical signs, as well as environmental signs of cruelty to be on the look out for. Be sure to review the below lists so you know animal abuse when you see it!
Physical Signs of Cruelty
- Tight collar that has caused a neck wound or has become embedded in the pet’s neck
- Open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds or an ongoing injury or illness that isn’t being treated
- Untreated skin conditions that have caused loss of hair, scaly skin, bumps or rashes
- Extreme thinness or emaciation—bones may be visible
- Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other parasites
- Patches of bumpy, scaly skin rashes
- Signs of inadequate grooming, such as extreme matting of fur, overgrown nails, and dirty coat
- Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally
- Heavy discharge from eyes or nose
- An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
- Visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness
Environmental Signs of Cruelty
- Pets are tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water, or with food or water that is unsanitary
- Pets are kept outside in inclement weather without access to adequate shelter
- Pets are kept in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them
- Animals are housed in kennels or cages (very often crowded in with other animals) that are too small to allow them to stand, turn around and make normal movements
Animal Cruelty Seen on the Internet
The Internet can be a wonderful place for helping dogs find homes, get cat care tips and more but unfortunately, the Internet also always for many dangers for our furry friends.
First, you’ll have to find the background information for the particular website. You can visit WhoIs and perform a search of the site. Then, contact the website’s ISP (Internet service provider) to report the animal abuse. If you believe the animal is an immediate danger, contact the offender’s local FBI branch, based on the WhoIs search.
You Are Their Voice
Just the thought of animal abuse is enough to bring any animal lover to tears. Tragic stories involving humans abusing animals seem to make headlines on a daily basis. Reading these stories can be difficult and make you feel as if no progress is being made to save and protect all the animals humans interact with or take responsibility for. Without voices to speak up for themselves or proper laws (and enforcement of the laws that do exist) to shield them from neglect or physical abuse, it is up to us to step in and do all we can to end the violence. This involves speaking out and raising awareness for animals who are the victims of abuse and also even working help get laws changed or improved on a state or national level.
Please share this article within your network so others can also learn what to do if they see animal abuse! It’s important to always speak up for those we cannot.
Lead image source: behumann34/Pixabay