dog looking through fence

You’ve passed your neighbor and his German Shorthair Pointer a few times around the block, and something just doesn’t feel right.  Maybe the person takes a very rough hand with the pup, or maybe there is even physical evidence of negligence in health care, or fear and anxiety in the pet.

Unfortunately, animal abuse is seldom reported, either because people are afraid of being found out as the snitch, or because they don’t want to jump to conclusions they may not be able to prove.  Though the most common kind of pet abuse is actually abandonment and neglect, there are many reports of physical animal abuse each year.   In 2012 alone, there were over 550 cases of violence toward domestic pets reported, including beating, fighting, stabbing, torturing, strangling, burning, poisoning and shooting.  These tragic occurrences remind us of the gravity of the situation; that hundreds and thousands of animals suffer every year because people are too afraid to say anything or too busy to notice.

Kinds of Abuse

Abuse is not just limited to physically beating an animal; rather it can consist of many different things.  Here are some of the most common kinds of animal abuse:

  • Abandonment
  • Neglect
  • Underfeeding
  • Overcrowding
  • Inadequate shelter
  • Animal hoarding
  • Insufficient medical care

Warning Signs

Being an active observer in the community is a great service you can do for other animals and your fellow neighbors. When you go for your daily walk to the park, try to chat with passersby and other residents of your area, and watch how they interact with their animals. By having a simple conversation about pet ownership, you can find out a lot about someone and the nature of their relationship with their animal.  If you witness any of these below warning signs, you might want to keep a closer eye on that person.

  • People who seem to change their story whenever talking about how they got their pet, or how long they have had it.
  • Pets who seem to always have injuries (without receiving any treatment or long periods of time). These may appear as wounds, lesions, sores, hair loss, or scabs.
  • Pet owners that talk about going to several different vets (suggesting someone who does not want any accountability).
  • People who physically hit or slap their dogs in public when they disobey them.
  • People who often have young pets (kittens, puppies) but never an aging adult pet.
  • People who seem to have many pets in a small property or a limited space.
  • People who cannot quickly number the amount of pets they own, indicating that there are too many, that the number fluctuates often, or that they do not want their affairs pried into.
  • People who own multiple pets, several of whom have injuries.
  • Pet owners who mention that their pets get hurt accidentally often.

Additional signals in pets:

  • Pets who appear emaciated, whose ribs are protruding, or who have dull coats indicating malnutrition.
  • Pets who seem to have a skin condition, such as fleas, mites, mange, hot spots, or other indications of medical neglect.
  • Weakness, limping and evident discomfort in walking or standing.
  • Dogs that have signs of chafing or embedded chains around the animal’s neck.
  • Dogs or cats that are defensive, hostile, distressed, or aggressive in demeanor towards others.
  • Pets that are painfully shy, or who tremble and show severe anxiety.
  • Dogs or cats that howl, wail, or whine all hours of the day and night (indicating that they may be afraid, hurt, or lacking something vital to their survival, such as food or water.)
  • Pets that you can hear and smell, but never see.
  • Dogs or cats that are kept outside in extreme heat and cold without a cover or shelter, or that are chained, kept in crates or cages for long hours at a time.

If anyone in your community exhibits these warning signs, an abusive relationship may exist. Find out how to report cases of animal abuse the safest and most effective way.