11 signs of animal cruelty and how you can help

Animal cruelty is not only abhorrent in its own right, but is often tied to other offenses, including violence against adults and children. 

Black’ s Law Dictionary defines cruelty to animals as: “The infliction of physical pain, suffering, or death upon an animal, when not necessary for purposes of training or discipline or (in the case of death) to procure food or to release the animal from incurable suffering, but done wantonly, for mere sport, for the indulgence of a cruel and vindictive temper, or with reckless indifference to its pain.” 

Save animals from needless suffering by learning the 11 signs of abuse, neglect or cruelty:

  1. Poor body condition and noticeable trauma: The animal has severe matting and a filthy coat, open sores or obvious wounds. It appears to be flea or tick infested. It’s underweight with bones clearly visible. It might be limping or unable to walk at all, or have congested eyes or ears. It is in obvious physical distress and in need of veterinary care.
  2. Lack of food or water: Every time you see this animal, you notice that it has no obvious sources of food and/or water. It may be aggressive due to starvation and thirst, and perhaps very lethargic. starving dog
  3. Lack of shelter: The animal is contained in an area fully exposed to inclement weather or constant sun.
  4. Lack of sanitation: Feces and/or debris cover the animal’s living area.
  5. Abandoned: The animal is left in a house or yard that appears empty. Reports of companion animals abandoned and left to die inside vacant buildings or apartment units are alarmingly common, and it’s a crime in all 50 states to abandon an animal. If you notice a neighbor has moved or has stopped visiting a residence where you know animals live, be extra vigilant. Some dogs bark and whine to express their anxiety when they’re left alone, but a dog that is howling or barking for several hours is sending a clear signal that it is in need of immediate, life-saving care.
  6. The animal is tied or caged: It has little room to move, and/or is unable to stand or turn.
  7. There are chains or padlocks around or embedded into the animal’s neck: This includes regular collars, too. A chained animal is an abused animal.
  8. The animal shows evidence of being trained for or having been used to fight: This is especially common with Pit Bull Terriers and even roosters. You may see training implements, treadmills, spring poles, etc. More likely, you’ll notice obvious signs of trauma, such as scars, open wounds, infections or even missing body parts, such as ears or partial tails.
  9. The animal’s behavior is far from normal: It may be very aggressive or severely shy (e.g., cowering, hiding, fear-biting), even with or especially with its owner.
  10. There are too many animals living on one property: This can be a sign of animal hoarding.
  11. An owner being overtly violent against the animal, striking or otherwise physically abusing it.

Download our flyer: 11 signs of animal cruelty and how you can help

The worst thing you can do if you witness or suspect animal cruelty or neglect is nothing. Be that animal’s voice and get it out of its abusive situation immediately. abused cat

Four steps help an abused animal:
Animal cruelty is illegal in every state and a felony in 48 with the recent passage of the first felony animal cruelty law in Idaho. If you make a report of alleged animal cruelty the responding agency is required to investigate.

If you see an animal in distress, don’t assume that someone else will take care of the situation. Animals can’t speak for themselves; it’s up to you to speak for them.

  1. Be prepared: Most large municipalities have a local animal control department, or an animal shelter or humane society responsible for cruelty investigations. Do an online search to identify the agency in your area, and program the number into your mobile phone so you are prepared to report abuse.
  2. Speak up or call 911: If you witness overt violence against an animal or suspect it, speak up! If you don’t feel comfortable intervening in a situation directly, call 911 or your local animal welfare organization immediately (see step #1). It’s essential to call law enforcement when violence is involved, since it is likely part of an ongoing pattern that may include abuse against against people as well. If you’re traveling or living in a more rural area or community without an animal control agency, call 911 or the local police department.
  3. Document the details: Tell the officer as many details of the situation as you can: the location, date, time and descriptions of the people and animals involved. Video and photographic documentation – even a mobile phone photo – can help bolster the case. Provide names of others who may have witnessed the incident. Remain on the scene until authorities arrive, if you can do so safely.
  4. Prepare to testify: While you may remain anonymous, the case will be much stronger if you’re willing to identify yourself and testify to what you witnessed. A human witness is crucial for building a strong, prosecutable case.

Additional resources: chained shepherd

 

Comments

  1. I have reported several times about our neighbors 2 horses and 1 dog… The sheriff has gone out there. And i have made a couple of reports to the Ellis county Texas spca… And as far as I know, and see, the situation still has’nt gotten any better!!!!!!!!! The neighbors are very seldom in the back yard!!!! The 2 horses are kept in a small shed like building, sometimes for days on end!!!!!! And i never ever see anyone paying attention to the dalmation!!!!!! But, i ca’nt see real good from my back porch…. But, i just know, call it a gut feeling, that those sweet animals are being neglected!!!!!! simple….. But, what can I do??? I have already done what everyone said I needed to do?????? I’m getting more worried as the days go by!!!!! =/

    • keep bugging the sheriff and dont give up !! YOU are their only hope, to these trusting animals !!

    • Contact some rescue groups in your area. They are equipped to deal with the authorities and help the animal.

    • Catherine says:

      I’ll echo Anu’s and Linda’s comments. Also, despite your being justifiably upset over the lack of action, keep calm and firm when you speak with Law Enforcement. Your post was a few weeks ago, so I hope the situation has been addressed.

    • call the mspca n report it! Don’t wait.

    • I had a similar situation in Indiana with a horse. local Humane Society doesn’t deal with horses-I ended up calling our state Board of Animal Health. They have field veterinarians who investigate and finally after several weeks, my situation was resolved! He even called me back to give me a report. Maybe Texas has a similar thing?

  2. I’d like permission to repost your blog about the 11 signs of cruelity on the Pet Guardian Angels of America website at http://www.pgaa.com. The PGAA provides the information necessary to help people find the type of pet that matches their lifestyle and then to helps them to properly care for the pet; physically and emotionally. We also provide free assistance in pet rescue and adoption, and strongly support animal welfare actions.

    Thanks, Ron Lueth

  3. What do i do if i see a person walking a dong with multiple heavy chains around its neck and a heavy harness on its back? It looks as though the animal is in good condition but those chains cant be good for it. I dont know where this person lives so how can i contact anyone with information? Can i even contact someone about it if there are really no physical signs of abuse? someone help me plz.

  4. Crissie: it’s difficult to know from your description if this dog is actually being abused. What is the animal’s demeanor? Does it appear fearful of its owner? It is aggressive around other animals or people? If you’re unsure about whether you can determine if this is an animal that is suffering, call your local animal control and explain the situation to them. They should be able to determine whether the situation warrants further investigation.

    • this animal walks around cowering from everything. it walks as far as the leash will let it away from its owner. i feel like this animal is afraid to look at its owner.

  5. Crissie: We suggest you immediately call your local animal control to report what you have witnessed; it does appear that this dog might be suffering abuse.

  6. Terry Hilbert says:

    We have contacted our animal control about sick suffering dogs and they won’t come to help the animals so who do we contact now the people hide in the house and won’t open the door so who will come investigate the animal control that dont wanna do they’re job

  7. Kittydirt says:

    I want to know why treadmills & spring-poles are consideration for abuse? I have a pit mix and he works out with me. He runs on a treadmill while I use an elliptical trainer. I live in a northern climate so this is necessary with my active dog. While I don’t have a spring-pole I know my dog would love to play with one. So a responsible owner like myself would be considered suspicious for these things & I think that is just ridiculous.

    • Deborah D says:

      Treadmills are frequently seen in dog-fighting “training” sites.
      If you are training on a treadmill at home with your pit mix, it is not *likely* to be considered illegal.
      Depending on how strictly local \ state laws are written, I would think that it is unlikely the presence of the individual items would be considered abusive or neglectful.

  8. Like any potential sign of abuse, witnesses need to use discretion in considering whether a piece of equipment is being used harmlessly versus for nefarious purposes.

  9. Please remember that some animal groups are entirely volunteer, and may not have the resources to physically respond to reports of cruelty. We can, however, encourage appropriate response by those RESPONSIBLE for investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty. We can help with food, vet care, etc. but we are not available 24/7, have no vehicles, no shelter, no staff. We help as best we can, but are not a substitute for appropriate animal control/law enforcement services.

  10. Great point, Crystal. We absolutely agree that people should familiarize themselves with whatever agencies are responsible in their communities for animal control, enforcement and cruelty investigations.

  11. virginia holmes says:

    Here in Ohio this happens. My neighbor in my old house on Luckey Rd has had dogs chained outside everey year and each one of them had died. I called humane Society to report animal abuse/neglect, and they say they can not do NOTHING because Ohio laws are not strict. As long as the animal has a sort of shelter there is not much that can be done. And this man still continue to have dogs, one or two different every year. I have moved a few miles away but I still drive by and I am still watching this neighbor. In my follow up to this case, the Animal Abuse investigator told me that she spoke to him over the phone and she thinks he is gentleman very concious of his dogs health, but I just see the dogs keep dying, he keeps having different dogs and the all look sooo neglected. I do not think she even went to the place to see the situation. I sent out photographs from different dates and my testimony, etc.

  12. A chained animal is an abused animal?!? I’m hoping I’m miss understanding that. Are you trying today if you tie an animal up your being cruel to it?? I take my house dog outside with me and put her on her lead line while I play basketball or whatever I’m doing. She loves being outside she’s in the shade with water and a towel to lay on I don’t think that’s cruel it’s a lot nicer then letting her run wild and either hurt one of our cats or run out into the road. It’s also better then using a shock collar which I think is cruel and sick and that’s not even on the list?!? The man a few doors down from us has a pitbull he has to keep on a thick chain but around here that is the law for a put even if there caged they have to be chained he got a fine for not having it tied up when it got out of its lot and bit someone. Same on the having too many animals a few weeks ago a family got warned bout having too many cats where I live I think they had 15 not sure what the limit here is…..but the cats where never mistreated and are all very beautiful and healthy. They just couldn’t afford to get there cats fixed. I just feel like IF you can take care of the animals you have there should be no law on it there’s to many homeless animals to not let people take them in. There’s no law on how many kids you can have so why should there be animals?!?? I just wanted to say something bout those to statements bc I wouldn’t want to see someone miss understand it and and report someone for no reason and make them lose there pets!

    • A dog who is tied up outside every day, with little to no human contact, is very different from a socialized dog on a leash.

      A chained-up yard dog eventually develops behavioral problems. Its territory is tiny, so it will viciously protect it. It can’t get away from threats, like kids throwing rocks or loose neighborhood dogs (or, depending on where you live, coyotes, mountain lions, etc.), so it gets defensive. It lacks socialization, so everyone and everything is a ‘stranger’ and therefore a threat. A chained-up yard dog can only run to the end of its chain, and no farther, so it builds up frustrated, anxious energy that it cannot relieve. Everything that a dog loves and needs is just out of reach. A chained-up yard dog is not a beloved, welcome, healthy family pet – it’s a victim of human ignorance.

  13. Symone Jenai says:

    So im in 8th grade and im doing a project on animal neglect. this helped my fill the 2 more slides i needed to have. THANKS!! :-)

  14. My neighbors have a pony. The ponies hair on his head and on his back are matted up. I dont reguarly see the owners feeding him. He stays in a backyard. Fenced in with no grass. It is all mudd. Also the harnis on his head and face do look like they are rubbing his skin. I often go out and feed him carrots. He gets aggressive. I am only a teenager and I told my parents about it and they noticed him too, but they didnt want to get any not nessary neighbor fued. I feel so bad. The people have so many animals. They have at least 10 ducks, 1 goat, 1 pony, 3 pigs, 5 rabbits, birds,a dog, and multiple cats. The dog has little hair on her. She is very skittish around people. They let her run into the high way. She has red patches all over her. She also looks like she has fleas but cant get close enough to see. I have to go to school with these kids so i dont want them to know who said something. Is there anything i can do so they dont?
    What should i do?

  15. Christina says:

    My best friends parents have a small dog. He is always sick and they do treat him, but one time a few years ago I remember thath the mother hit him because He was trying to get on the bed, the dog fell and hurt his nail. Then my friend lied to her dad telling him the dog fell leaving out the part where her mother hit him. The dog cowers when the mother comes into the room as she is always yelling at him. She always calls him stupid. It really frustrates me. Would this also be considered animal cruelty?

    • Christina, it certainly sounds like abuse, though might not rise to the level of cruelty. Regardless, the animal appears to be suffering in an environment of fear, which is very sad. Since you’re close with this family, have you suggested or are you in a position to offer to adopt the dog?

  16. stacey tillery says:

    don’t abuse animals

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