Animal Cruelty: Signs and Prevention of Cruelty to Dogs

We must work together to end animal abuse.

Animal cruelty is an upsetting problem that is more common than any of us would like to believe. Domestic animals rely on humans for shelter, food, water, and kindness. Too many of them receive the opposite. It's important to know the signs of animal cruelty and what to do if you see it.

There are two types of animal cruelty, and it's important to distinguish between them and understand the difference.

Animal Neglect

This type of cruelty occurs when people don't understand or can't afford proper pet care. It is not necessarily done with malicious intent. Below are some ways in which a dog may be neglected by a person who isn't aware of or doesn't have the means to properly care for the pet.

Animal Abuse

This is cruelty that is performed with intent. A person beats, stabs, burns, or otherwise harms a dog purposely. Here are some things to know about animal abuse.

Signs of Animal Cruelty

All 50 states have laws against animal cruelty, but law enforcement officials must be made aware of the problem before they can act. It's important to know how to identify the signs of neglect or abuse to dogs.

It is not usually possible to tell from an animal's behavior whether he is being abused. Some dogs are aggressive, fearful, or timid for reasons other than abuse. Therefore, it is necessary to look for clues in the dog's environment and on the dog himself, such as:

A dog that is being treated for a medical problem may appear to be unhealthy to an onlooker, especially in the cases of chronic skin condition and lameness. Observing an animal over time can help you to determine if abuse or neglect is occurring.

A Note About Puppy Mills

A puppy mill is a dog breeding situation where many puppies are produced without regard to the puppies' care or to limiting genetic disorders. Puppy mills engage in animal abuse. Not all breeders run puppy mills. There are many who care for the dogs extremely well, and they take care to breed dogs as free from inheritable conditions as possible. The hallmarks of a puppy mill are listed below.

You can help put an end to puppy mills by:

What to Do If You Suspect the Neglect or Abuse of a Dog

If you see someone actively physically abusing a dog, call 911. If you suspect abuse or neglect of a dog, call your local animal control department or animal welfare agency. You can find contact information through a google search. If your community doesn't have a department for animal cruelty cases or isn't able to handle them, contact the Humane Society of the United States at 202-452-1100 or 866-720-2676, and ask to speak with an abuse expert.

Document the details of any incidents or conditions that you observe related to the abuse or neglect that you are reporting including dates, times, places, and the descriptions of any people involved.

We must all work together to protect dogs from abuse and neglect.

ADDENDUM: The FBI has reclassified animal abuse as a felony. This will begin in 2016, and it means that the worst dog abuse cases will be prosecuted the same as murder, burglary, and arson. This is a great step forward in the fight against dog abuse and, by extension, domestic violence.

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