Information About Animal Abuse

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Animal abuse comes in all forms, from physical abuse to simple neglect. Both intentional/malicious abuse and neglect or passive abuse may be tough to spot as laws defining what constitutes animal abuse can be vague and differ from municipality to municipality. Before you report abuse, you must evaluate the entire situation to determine whether or not abuse is actually occurring.

Legal Definition

  • The legal definition of animal abuse differs from state to state; however the sentiment is the same. Acording to the Sequoia Humane Sociey, any person found to have intentionally overworked, tortured, tormented or wounded any living animal is in violation of the state’s animal cruelty laws. The laws also extend to anyone who knowingly or neglectfully deprives an animal of adequate food, water or shelter. Persons are also prohibited from cruelly beating, mutilating or killing an animal.

    These crimes, depending on the state, are punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the severity of the infraction. Owners of animals raised for fighting as well as any spectator to such as event are also in violation of these laws. Lastly, the abandonment of animals is also a crime and is covered under animal cruelty laws.

Reocgnizing Abuse

  • Recognizing abuse can be tough. Some situations may appear to be abusive, though are not actually breaking any laws. The ASPCA has outlined some guidelines that help individuals spot abuse. Acording to the ASPAC, some physical signs of abuse to looks for include wearing a collar that is too tight and either injures the dog or prevents adequate respiration, having untreated, open wounds, being emaciated, having signs of untreated parasitic infection including hair loss, skin infections and unexplained lumps under the skin, limping, or visible confirmation of hitting or physical violence against the animal. The living conditions in which an animal resides can also call attention to abuse. Dirty and unsanitary conditions or a lack of adequate food, water or shelter can indicate abuse is taking place.

Reporting Abuse

  • Reporting animal cruelty is important, not only to the animal in question, but animal cruelty has been definitively linked to other violent acts within the family structure and within society. If you suspect an owner of committing abuse against an animal, do not confront the owner yourself. Contact the local humane society or local law enforcement. This protects you and the animal in question, but also allows for a thorough investigation, which is the key to successful prosecution.

Preventing Abuse

  • Preventing animal abuse is the key. You can file a report of animal abuse with either your local humane society organization or with local law enforement officials. The ASPCA recommends that when you make a report of animal abuse, provide as much detail as possible, as this will be the starting point for any investigation. Keep detailed and accurate descriptions of what you witness. Talk to your kids about the proper way to treat animals from a very young age and set a good example for them.


  • There has been a stong link established between animal abuse and domestic abuse over the years. As a matter of fact, the ASPCA reports that in 88 percent of the homes in New Jersey that have reported instances of child abuse, animal abuse has also occurred. In the same report, Wisconsin women that have experienced spousal abuse have indicated that in four out of five cases, the batterer had also been phycially abusive toward pets and farm animals. Similar statistics characterize all 50 states.



  • Photo Credit dog image by Michal Tudek from

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