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How to Spot Animal Abuse and What You Can Do to Help

Speak up against animal abuse and find out what all can happen with your help in preventing animal abuse.

Cruelty to animals tends to be defined as causing suffering, pain, neglect, or death, typically to domesticated animals.

Not all animal abuse cases involve pets like a cat or dog; many include livestock and horses. It could include someone’s pet or a business, such as puppy mills or testing products on animals.

There’s a fight to end the suffering of animals, but it’s a long road to success. Every step is important, no matter how small.

Signs of Animal Abuse

Here are some possible signs of animal abuse.

  • Someone hitting, throwing, abusing, or causing any pain/harm to an animal
  • A tight collar that is causing bleeding or difficulty breathing
  • Constant wounds or broken bones (healed and new)
  • Limping or unable to stand
  • Untreated wounds, illnesses, or skin conditions
  • Untreated parasite infestations (fleas, ticks, scabies…)
  • Animals crowded in small living space together with a lack of room for normal movement
  • The animal is kept in a kennel with bad conditions, such as feces, trash, or glass
  • Extreme lack of grooming (badly dirty and/or matted fur is a good indication of bad grooming habits)
  • Emaciation
  • Tied up for an extended period without clean food or water
  • Lack of shelter during times of extreme weather
  • Animal left alone for a long period with no caregiver
  • Heavy discharge from eyes or nose
  • Multiple pets living in a hoarding environment

Help In Prevention of Animal Abuse

The best thing you can do for possible abusive situations is to call your local authorities.

Some signs, such as no food bowls for outside pets, may not be signs of abuse. It could be that the food is inside, in their shelter, or they’re fed at a specific time. Then, animal behaviors such as aggression or timidness could be something the owner or caregiver is trying to work on.

Be careful in assumptions, but you don’t have to sit around hoping to figure it out. If you’re unsure, still contact your local police. They can approach the person delicately but also with authority.

To help the police, you may want to keep information on the abuse’s dates, place, and situation. You can also take pictures or videos for proof.

If you want to help raise awareness and strengthen the prevention of animal abuse, you can join ASPCA’s initiative. They offer information, training, and support for people wanting to get involved in their campaign.

Prevention of Animal Abuse Can Help Save a Fellow Human

71% of cases concerning people in an abusive relationship noted the abuser also targeted their pets.

According to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), people who abuse animals have a higher probability of being abusive to romantic partners and children. It’s reported that around 71% of cases concerning people in an abusive relationship noted the abuser also targeted their pets. In cases concerning child abuse, there is 88% of situations where pets were also abused. By keeping an eye on the treatment of animals, you could be protecting someone in a violent relationship.

Many people are less likely to leave if they are unable to take their pet with them. Luckily, Pets and Women’s Safety (PAWS) Act provides funding for shelters to be more pet-friendly in domestic abuse cases. This allows people to bring their pets to a shelter when leaving an abusive situation. It also allows pets to be part of a protection order.

The Puppy Mill Issue

Buying from puppy mills with the intention of “saving a puppy/dog” is still not helpful

There are around 10,000 puppy mills in the US. These mills tend to lack effective oversight, care for the animals, and inhumane treatment of the living and deceased animals.

The HSUS is working hard to reduce the use of puppy mills. Puppy mills mainly sell online or to pet stores. This is why the HSUS provides information on the benefits of changing a Pet Shop from puppy mills to a more humane way of acquiring animals, such as shelters. Pet Shops can also get help from The Human Society and receive benefits from the change such as guidance during the transition, networking with other stores, publicity, and more.

Buying from puppy mills with the intention of “saving a puppy/dog” is still not helpful as it puts money in the breeder's pocket and continues their business.

If you’re looking to adopt a pet, please check with shelters and rescues first. Even if you’re hoping for a purebred pet, you can find them through shelters. We understand people may want a puppy to train themselves or to grow up with the kids. In those cases, do the research of the people you’re buying from. Use referrals, or ask for them. Make sure the breeder is an ethical one and takes excellent care of their animals.

The HSUS came out with a helpful checklist when looking for an ethical breeder:

  • “Responsible breeders only sell puppies to people they have met in person—never through pet stores or online to people they haven’t met.
  • Responsible breeders encourage you to visit and see where the puppy was born and raised.
  • Responsible breeders will not keep dogs in crowded spaces or cages. Their dogs will be in clean, roomy, comfortable areas.
  • Responsible breeders breed sparingly. They specialize in only one or a few breeds and don't always have puppies available.
  • Responsible breeders will show you individual records of veterinary visits for your puppy and the parents.
  • Responsible breeders will want you to sign a contract and will ask you to return the puppy to them if you are ever unable to keep the dog.”

Animals need us to speak up for them. While they can vocalize pain and abuse, they can’t use words to speak out and ask for help. We must be vigilant in their care. If you see something, say something!

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