Animal Abuse An In-Depth Look

Why Is Animal Abuse Happening?

You may be wondering why animal abuse happens. Why would someone hurt a helpless animal? There are many different reasons for this abuse, but mostly it comes down to one thing: the abuser perceives the animal as a thing, not as a living, feeling being. Another possible reason is that the abuser feels powerless in their own life, so they take out their frustrations on an innocent creature. The abuser may also have a history of abuse themselves, or have witnessed abuse first hand. The abuser might even be bored and trying to kill time.

No matter what the reason for animal abuse is, it’s important to remember that animals don’t deserve to be hurt!

Types of Animal Abuse

Animal abuse can take many forms, and understanding the types and signs of animal cruelty may help you to identify or prevent it.

  • Animal hoarding

Do you know if your next door neighbor is an animal hoarder? Hoarders are often reclusive and avoid contact with others—but even so, there are some telltale signs that will clue you in that something isn’t right. For example, you might notice an unusual number of pets entering or leaving the residence at strange hours. Or perhaps a foul odor emanating from the property. In extreme cases, they may experience a noticeable decline in their health due to unsanitary conditions. If this sounds familiar, consider reaching out to them or the appropriate authorities.

  • Dog fighting

While dogfighting is illegal nationwide, this despicable practice continues across America largely underground. Many people don’t recognize dogfighting when they see it because of its secretive nature—but there are a few clues that can tip someone off: dogs who have scars on their faces and/or bodies; dogs who cower around certain people; dogs who appear aggressive towards other animals; and more.

What Are the Effects of Animal Abuse?

There are a number of serious effects animal abuse can have, both on the abused animal and on the abuser.

  • Animals who experience abuse can suffer from fear, illness, injury, or even death. Additionally, they may act aggressively themselves as a result of their negative experiences. These animals should be treated with care after they’ve been rescued and rehabilitated; handling them gently will help them to regain trust in people.
  • People who commit acts of violence against animals can also suffer from psychological issues. They may be more likely to suffer from mental issues such as depression or anxiety disorders and are at increased risk for substance abuse problems or suicidal tendencies. This is especially true if these perpetrators began abusing animals when they were children; many juvenile abusers later become violent criminals against humans as well, including homicide offenders.
  • Family members of those who abuse animals are also at high risk for being victims of violence themselves: an estimated 71 percent of women who report having been physically abused by their partners say that their abusers also hurt or killed household pets during the time period that they experienced domestic violence (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).

Helping Victims of Animal Abuse

If you encounter an animal in need of help, here are the steps you should take:

  • Get the animal to safety as quickly as possible. If the situation is too dangerous, see if you can distract the owner so someone else can help get the animal away.
  • Contact a local animal rescue group, your local police or animal control agency and/or an attorney who specializes in these cases (you can use pet-abuse.comto search for one).
  • Take a photo of the animal so that you have evidence of abuse or neglect to show authorities and veterinarians later.
  • Provide any food, water and shelter that you’re able to give until proper care can be arranged for the injured or victimized animals in question (if it’s safe for you to do so without putting yourself at risk).
  • Contact a veterinarian about having any injured animals examined to determine what treatment is needed (this may also require veterinary records in court).
  • If possible, contact a nearby shelter or foster program who will provide temporary housing for animals while legal matters are being sorted out by your attorney or district attorney’s office.*
  • Set up a reward fund by contacting media outlets with details about what happened and how they can help by providing information on where concerned citizens can contribute money toward identifying the abuser(s) and bringing them to justice.* Post flyers around areas where someone may have witnessed something related to this case.* *If you would like more details about how to go about doing these things, check out our Helping Victims of Animal Abuse section!

Who Can Be Held Responsible for Animal Abuse?

Individuals can be held criminally liable for their mistreatment of animals. Individuals who commit intentional animal abuse are often family members, friends, and acquaintances of the victims. In other situations, perpetrators may be strangers.

However, it’s not just individuals that can be held responsible for animal abuse; organizations and corporations can also be held accountable for their role in abusing animals.

Taking Action Against Animal Cruelty

There are many ways you can help fight animal abuse. If you witness someone harming an animal, try to get a photo or video of the incident; if possible, also write down information on what is happening, where it’s happening, and when it happened. Then report it by calling your local police department or humane society. You may also call the ASPCA at 1-877-THE-ASPCA (1-877-843-2772) or the HSUS at 1-866-720-2676.

If you witness animal abuse, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

If you are a witness to animal abuse and feel that it is too dangerous for you personally to intervene, call the police or your local animal control office right away. You could also call an animal cruelty hotline or contact an animal rescue organization for help. Make sure you give as much information as possible about the situation, such as a description of the abuser and any animals being abused, the date/time of occurrence and location, vehicle description/license plate number if applicable, and what action you want taken.

If child abuse is suspected: Call 9-1-1 if there is immediate danger or 1-800-4ACHILD (422-4453).

If domestic violence is suspected: Call 9-1-1 if there is immediate danger or 1-800-799SAFE (7233).

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