How to Tell if an Animal is Abused
How many times have you walked past that one house to see the old dog chained up to the dirt on the ground with no food or water bowl? How many times have you experienced a dog backing away from you and whincing when you bend over to pet him? As hard as it is to see these things, especially if it’s in a friend’s pet, they are typical signs of abuse and neglect. And there are thousands of cats and dogs suffering from it every day across the country.
The ASPCA recently put an article in their newsletter about spotting abuse in a pet, and how you can tell, and more importantly, what to do about it. I’d like to re-post that here for folks to read and really pay attention to.
April kicks off Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month—but you can’t fight cruelty if you don’t know what it looks like. Recognizing signs of abuse is simple, right? Not quite, say ASPCA experts. Many people interpret an animal’s aggression, fear or timidity as a surefire clue that the animal has suffered cruelty—but looking solely at a pet’s behavior doesn’t tell the whole story.
“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 observe his body and the surrounding environment.”
ASPCA Special Agent Kristi Adams agrees. “The clues I look for when investigating a scene,” says Adams, “are whether the animal is being provided with adequate food, water and shelter, and whether he or she appears injured or sick.”
Check out our complete list of telltale signs that an animal needs help.
Here’s a sneak peek at some physical and environmental signs of animal abuse:
- Collar so tight that it’s 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
- Extreme thinness or emaciation—bones may be visible beneath the skin
- 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 in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them
- Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally
- Signs of inadequate grooming, such as extreme matting of fur, overgrown nails and dirty coat
- 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
If you suspect an animal is being abused, don’t keep it to yourself—report it to your local authorities. “Reporting suspected animal cruelty ensures that animals in jeopardy receive prompt and often lifesaving care,” says ASPCA Supervisory Special Investigator Annemarie Lucas. “By making a complaint to the police or humane society in your area—which you can do anonymously—you help ensure that animals in need are rescued and that perpetrators of animal cruelty are brought to justice.”
Please read our Reporting Cruelty FAQ for more information, and have a safe and proactive Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.