Signs That an Animal Might Be Abused
Recognising cruelty is simple, right? Not quite, say ASPCA experts. Aggressive, timid or fearful behavior doesn’t always tell the whole story. Animals may appear to be timid or frightened for many reasons other than abuse.
“It’s almost impossible to make conclusions based on a pet’s behavior alone,” says the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center’s Kristen Collins, CPDT. “The best way to tell whether a pet is being or has been abused is to examine him and his surrounding environment.” Check out our list of signs that may alert you an animal needs help:
Collar so tight that it has caused a neck wound or has become embedded in the pet’s neck. Open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds or an ongoing injury or illness that isn’t being treated. Untreated skin conditions that have caused loss of hair, scaly skin, bumps or rashes. Extreme thinness or emaciation—bones may be visible. Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other parasites. Patches of bumpy, scaly skin rashes. Signs of inadequate grooming, such as extreme matting of fur, overgrown nails and dirty coat. Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally. Heavy discharge from eyes or nose. An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal. Visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness.
Pets are tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water, or with food or water that is unsanitary. Pets are kept outside in inclement weather without access to adequate shelter. Pets are kept in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them. Animals are housed in kennels or cages (very often crowded in with other animals) that are too small to allow them to stand, turn around and make normal movements possibly with too many other animals.
“Reporting suspected animal cruelty ensures that animals in jeopardy receive prompt and often lifesaving care,” says ASPCA Special Agent Joann Sandano. “By making a complaint to the police or humane society in your area—you can even do so anonymously—you help ensure that animals in need are rescued and that perpetrators of animal cruelty are brought to justice.”
If you see signs of animal abuse, don’t keep it to yourself. Here’s how to report cruelty in your area.
Act Now—Report Animal Cruelty!
Animal cruelty is not only wrong—it is against the law! Abuse of any kind should be reported to the appropriate authorities immediately.
Where do I Report Animal Cruelty?
In NYC: Cruelty situations involving animals in New York City should be reported to the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement department at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN NJ: If you believe you have witnessed animal cruelty in the state of New Jersey and would like to report it, please call the NJSPCA at (800) 582-5979 or fill out NJSPCA’s online form.
Outside NYC: You will need to find out the name of the persons in your area who are responsible for investigating and enforcing the anti-cruelty codes in your town, county and/or state. These people typically work for your local humane organization, animal control agency, taxpayer-funded animal shelter or police precinct.
If you run into trouble finding the correct agency to contact, you should call or visit your local police department and ask for their help in enforcing the law. If your local police department is unable to assist, you can ask at your local shelter or animal control agency for advice on who to contact to report animal cruelty in your community. To find contact information for your local shelter, check the yellow pages or visit the ASPCA’s searchable database of nearly 5,000 community SPCAs, humane societies and animal control organisations.
Tips for Reporting Animal Cruelty
Once you have found out which law enforcement agent you should speak to, it’s important to provide him or her with a concise, written, factual statement of what you observed, giving dates and approximate times whenever possible. If at all feasible, try to photograph the abusive situation and date your pictures. It would also be helpful to get short, factual written statements from other witnesses.
When you call to report animal cruelty, always make sure to keep a careful record of exactly whom you contact, the date of the contacts and the content and outcome of your discussion. Never give away a document without making a copy for your file! Make it clear to the agent that you are very interested in pursuing the case, and that you are willing to lend whatever assistance you can.
Follow Up if Necessary
If you don’t receive a response from the officer assigned to your case within a reasonable length of time, don’t be afraid to present your information to his or her supervisor and, if necessary, to local government officials, such as the county commissioner, and ask them to act.
If you have witnessed the cruel act yourself, you can go to your local police commissioner and ask to swear out a warrant to summon the accused person to court. Remember that expert witnesses are sometimes necessary in animal cruelty cases. A veterinarian, for example, can sign a statement that it is his or her “expert opinion” that a dog suffers when hit with a chain, is deprived of food, etc. Expert opinions will very often make or break a case, so if you happen to know a sympathetic veterinarian, you may wish to seek his or her assistance and tell the officer that you have expert support lined up for your case.
Animal Cruelty on TV and Film
The ASPCA shares your concern about the media’s depiction of violence and cruelty towards animals for entertainment purposes. Please know, however, that many of these instances are constitutionally protected free speech—and may not even involve a real animal.
If you are offended by something you viewed, we suggest that you contact the network that aired the program or the publisher of the film in question.
You may also wish to contact the American Humane Association Movie and Television Unit online or at (818) 501-0123. This unit oversees the use of live animals in movies and television as part of an agreement with the Screen Directors Guild.
Websites that Depict Animal Cruelty
The Internet delivers an astounding array of images and ideas into homes across the world. But not all of these images are particularly animal-friendly. In fact, some of what is being sold and shown online crosses into the realm of criminal activity. And in some cases, there are laws against showing and selling these images.
To report websites that display acts of cruelty to animals, please contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.
Questions or concerns about calling in a cruelty complaint? Take a look at our Reporting Cruelty FAQ.
“Without phone calls from the concerned citizens who report cruelty in their neighborhoods, we wouldn’t know about most instances of animal abuse,” says ASPCA Supervisory Special Investigator Annemarie Lucas, whom you may have seen in action on Animal Planet’s Animal Precinct.
Do you know where and how to report cruelty in your town? Our FAQ provides information on recognizing and reporting animal cruelty, as well as cruelty laws and how to talk to children about this important issue.
About the ASPCA
Who They Are
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world. Our organization was founded by Henry Bergh in 1866 on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans, and must be protected under the law. Headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA maintains a strong local presence, and with programs that extend our anti-cruelty mission across the country, we are recognized as a national animal welfare organization. We are a privately funded 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, and proud to boast more than 1 million supporters across the country.
What They Do
As the first humane organization to be granted legal authority to investigate and make arrests for crimes against animals, we are wholly dedicated to fulfilling the ASPCA mission through nonviolent approaches. Our organization provides local and national leadership in three key areas: caring for pet parents and pets, providing positive outcomes for at-risk animals and serving victims of animal cruelty. For more on our work in each of these areas, pleas visit our programs and services page.
For more information on American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) click on this link www.aspca.com