Animal abuse can seem so distant, so unlikely to happen close to us. Even though you love animals, you may find it difficult to make decisions when you actually witness it.
It’s up to us to speak up when we know an animal is being abused or neglected, even if it’s not easy. Sometimes, the abuser is a stranger, but it could be a friend or family member. No matter who it is, nobody has the right to make an animal suffer.
Signs That An Animal Is Abused Or Neglected
Sometimes, it’s obvious when an animal is being abused. You may witness their owner hitting them, or they may be severely underweight and clearly starving. At other times, it’s not obvious whether you should intervene.
Leaving a cat, dog or other animals outside at all times is unkind, especially in extreme heat or cold. However, this does not always mean their owner is breaking the law. A pet owner must provide food, water and shelter.
Dogs cannot be left on a chain or tether for more than 3 hours per day. Their tether should be at least 10 feet long, and they should have access to fresh, clean water.
Pet owners also must provide basic veterinary care. A neglected animal might be wearing a tight collar that they have outgrown, or may not have been removed for months. They may be covered in fleas or ticks and may be missing patches of fur. A bloated belly can indicate an untreated worm infestation. Gaping, uncovered wounds are a big sign that an animal needs immediate help.
Another common example of neglect is in a hoarding situation. There may be many animals living in too-small quarters. The area may reek with feces and urine. Hoarders may love their animals, but they are unable to provide a safe, clean living space for them.
If you’re unsure if a situation is truly abusive, call your local animal control.
If you live in Grand Prairie, Texas, call Grand Prairie Animal Services at (972) 237-8575
If it’s an emergency, call 911.
Document, Ask, Report!
When you come across a situation that even might be animal cruelty, use your phone to take pictures and videos. If you take photos from off the owner’s property, there is nothing they can do about it, though they can legally ask you to stop taking pictures if you are actually on their property.
Be extremely careful when approaching someone who you suspect is abusive towards animals – odds are, they’re not very kind to people, either. Do not enter their home, and always bring a friend. Be prepared to call the police if the situation becomes dangerous.
Some neglectful or abusive owners may be mentally or physically disabled, or may not be able to care for their animals due to financial problems. Avoid making assumptions or accusations, even when you think you’re sure of what you have witnessed.
When approaching a possible animal abuser, begin by politely asking questions, and thoughtfully listening to the owner’s responses. Try to be understanding, even if it’s difficult.
Keep in mind, you could only be witnessing a fraction of the abuse the animal faces each day. If you can, offer to care for the animal yourself, even if it means you’ll have to surrender the animal to a rescue or shelter. It’s ideal to take the animal to a no-kill shelter, but if the animal is in very poor health or extremely anxious or aggressive due to abuse, it may be better for them to be euthanized than to continue suffering in their existing living situation.
If you are unable to help the animal on your own, contact your local SPCA.
Remember, when someone is charged with animal cruelty, they can go to prison or face hefty fines. Don’t let this stop you from helping an animal in need. Just keep this in mind in case you are worried that the owner will retaliate against you. You can make the report anonymously, or you can convince the owner to surrender the animal to you so you can take it into your care or bring it to your local shelter.
The worst thing you can do is nothing. Animals can’t speak up for themselves, and they depend on people like us to be their voices. You could be the only person who notices or cares – don’t leave it to someone else to take action.
Have you ever witnessed animal abuse or neglect? What did you do?