There are few things more tragic than witnessing someone strike their pet. If you suspect a neighbor or someone in your community has been abusing his pet, there are several ways to go about helping the poor creature.

First, there are a few different approaches to take, which will vary depending on your experience as an observer.  Because we live in a country where our justice system begins by giving someone the benefit of the doubt, be sure that there are solid grounds for an abuse accusation. You would do well to provide evidence that there is reasonable doubt of the suspect before you go enlisting any law enforcement.

Steps of Reporting Animal Abuse

1. Write down your observations. Note the date, what you saw, the feelings you may have experienced, and the way the pet interacted with his owner. When you worry that there might be an abusive situation, the first action to take is notation.

2. Actively bide your time. You may have seen conflicting signs:  bruises and sores, negligence, alarming behaviors from the dog, and poor health care, but the owner seems amiable toward the pet, expresses concern for him and a desire to help him get better. There may be no other indication of foul play other than the dog’s appearance and attitude,  which very well may have been caused by outside sources.  If there are no other suspicious signals, do not start dialing emergency services right away. Rather, continue to observe this person and their pets. This might even look like trying to go on walks around the same time the individual in question goes, in order to afford yourself further observation opportunities. Does the dog seem to be getting better as the owner hoped he would?  Has the pet owner appeared with more animals, or has it been awhile since you’ve seen the original pup out for a walk?  Keep notice of the activity in your neighborhood, writing records of what you see and when, or even taking videos or pictures  if you have the chance to do so. But until there is further proof, just make notations.

3. Notify Animal Protective Services.  When a situation escalates, and you either personally see someone inappropriately hit their pet,  or you smell a putrid odor coming from someone’s home, or if several other tell-tale alarming signs have begun to confirm your fears, it would be time to report your findings. Contact the local Humane Society, or the SPCA in your area, or the police department.

Safety Reminder

Do not approach or challenge the suspect. For your own safety, we urge you not to approach the suspect. If they are guilty, you may unwittingly subject the dogs or cats to further abuse, or even abandonment if the person tries to skip town.  It is also dangerous to identify yourself as a suspicious party to a person who obviously shows no regard for the law, or for the pain of others. You could be putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Only notify the authorities of the behaviors you have witnessed, and any other helpful facts that would validate your concerns.

NOTE: In an effort to eradicate animal cruelty in the U.S., the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States)  supports the  End Animal Cruelty and Fighting Campaign , which seeks to educate individuals, support animal protection laws, incentivize reporting abuse cases, intervene and rescue abused animals (in large cases like puppy mills, etc.), among other heroic endeavors.