What To Do If You Witness or Suspect Animal Abuse

Although it’s not something that we like to think about, sadly, animal abuse is still something that happens all the time. Here we look at the different types of abuse to be aware of and what to do when you encounter it.

The most well-known types of abuse are neglect, physical abuse such as hitting or kicking animals, or abandonment. However, less obvious forms of neglect, like inadequate shelter, animals being chained up, and hoarding also fall under animal abuse.

Always report cruelty or abuse.

##What to Do: Collect and Report

Whenever you see or suspect an animal is being abused, it is important to collect as much information as possible before contacting the appropriate authorities. Write down all relevant details, such as when and where the abuse occurred, the type and basic description of pet that is being abused, and documentation if possible (and be obtained safely).

##What Not to Do: Put Yourself in Danger

Smartphones are an excellent tool that can be used to record animal abuse, but make sure you do not put yourself in danger. Please remember that, not matter how difficult it might be, you should never attempt to rescue or remove an animal from an unstable or dangerous situation. Despite your best intentions, you could be putting yourself and others in harm’s way. Plus, it is against the law, which could complicate the legal case against the abuser.

##Know the Law

While each state has different laws regarding animal abuse, these are the three most common animal abuse laws:

It is unlawful for an owner or custodian of an animal:

  1. To fail to provide an animal with:
    * Proper food and water
    * Shelter or protection from the weather
    * Veterinary attention needed to reduce or end suffering from disease or injury
    * A sanitary environment

  2. To willfully abandon an animal
  3. To willfully permit an animal to be subjected to unnecessary torture, suffering or cruelty

Be sure you are aware of the laws specific to your state. Find out more and see where your state ranks at ALDF.  An extensive list of Massachusetts’ laws can be found by clicking this link.  the three most common animal abuse laws. While there there is currently no federal standard, a proposed bill would make animal cruelty a federal felony. Learn more about The PACT Act.

##Signs of Abuse: What to Look For

It is important to keep in mind that not all situations are black-and-white. Often times people lack education and resources to know what is best. For example, a first-time new dog owner might not realize that the collar on their puppy is too tight or that domestic cats live longer, safer lives when kept indoors. While ignorance is not an excuse, some individuals might need a helping hand or some resources to help them be better pet parents. However, if you ever suspect mistreatment, you should always report it.

According to the Animal Humane Society, here are some common signs of abuse and/or neglect:

  • Lack of grooming, such as overgrown nails or matted fur
  • Lack of basic needs/general care such as food, water, shelter, and vet care
  • Bruises and scarring on skin or visible signs of poor health
  • Being kept in unsanitary conditions or extreme temperatures (such as dog being chained up in backyards)
  • Malnourished or dehydrated appearance; bones visible through fur

Read more about the seven warning signs of animal cruelty.

##Where and How to Report

There are several places where you can report animal abuse. If there is imminent danger, contact your local law enforcement agency or the state police. If you suspect abuse or neglect, you can contact your town or city’s animal control officer

You can contact the Massachusetts MSPCA Law Enforcement Department  at (617) 522-6008 or (800) 628-5808 Monday through Friday from 9AM until 5PM.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston also has a Law Enforcement Department where you can report suspected cruelty at (617) 426-9170 or cruelty@arlboston.org.

You may also call the Norfolk District Attorney’s office at (781) 830-4800.

##Other Ways To Help

Apart from reporting animal abuse, there are several other ways you can help eradicate animal cruelty. People with a background in animal sciences for example, can become part of the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association or IVFSA. Memberships start at $25 per year and are maximum $125 per year. They educate the animal welfare community and law enforcement via conferences and courses on the application of forensic science techniques in cases of animal abuse.

If you don’t have an education in animal science, you can always volunteer for or donate to organizations such as American Humane, the MSPCA, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) or contribute to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. All these organizations are working very hard to educate people on animal abuse and put in a huge effort to make sure no animals suffer because of humans.

Remember, regardless of individual state laws animal cruelty is illegal and unnecessary. There are resources and agencies to help with abuse, neglect, or hardship. If you see or suspect abuse, report it immediately.


Dog Training 101: Top Tips for Best Behavior

When you adopt a dog or add a new pet to the family, training is a critical part of establishing a routine and ensuring success. Here are some tips for training your dog as well as insight into different forms of training.

Beginner Basics: Establishing a Potty Plan

The most important first step with puppies (or even older dogs that a new to your household) is establishing a bathroom schedule.

Creating a consistent, routine is critical. Bathroom schedules must be routine to establish proper habits and teach dogs to understand that they go to the bathroom outside and not in the house.

Age is a good marker for a time frame of how long dogs can hold their bladder. The general rule of thumb is that dogs can hold their bladder one hour for every month of their age, so, if your dog is three months old, they can hold it for three hours. Please note that this is only a general calculation and that accidents happen during potty training.

Since they cannot hold their bladder as long, puppies need to go out often while they are house-training.

For dogs less than six months old potty breaks will be more frequent and happen at regular intervals, such as 30 minutes after each meal and after they drink water. Dogs 6 months to 1-year-old can hold their urine and bowel movements for longer, but still, require frequent trips outside on a regular basis.

Often dogs will give you cues that they need to go out. Pay attention to signs, especially as you and your new family member are getting to know one another. As your dog grows and learns, you will become more familiar with their cues, such as going to the door or trying to get your attention another way, making it easier.

Remember, your dog is learning — it is up to you to provide proper structure and rewards for good behavior. Read more tips about house-training here.

When house-training your new pup, be sure to take them out often and establish a regular bathroom schedule

Hiring a Trainer: When is the Right Time

One of the most common questions that dog owners have is when to enlist the help of a training. The answer is — the sooner, the better. Most trainers offer classes starting at 4-6 months of age. By then, your puppy should know some basic commands, such as sit, down, come, and possibly, stay.

Don’t worry if your dog does not have full command of these cues. Trainers are professionals and they want to help you as much as possible. Establishing an early relationship with a trainer will be beneficial to both you and your dog, especially if you a training refresher in the future.

Never Too Old: Teaching Older Dogs

We are all familiar with the classic adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, that is not true. Older dogs can and should still be learning as they continue to develop and mature. This is especially true when adopting an adult or senior pet — these animals often come from unstructured environments and need routine and training to settle into a new home. The good news is that more mature dogs often have a basic understanding of commands and house-training; they may just require a fresher as they are learning their new home and family.

Steps to Success: Types of Training

There are several different training methods for dogs and cats. Here is a look at some of the most popular:

Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is probably the most popular type of training. It is particularly helpful with potty training, as mentioned above. With this type of training, a reward (treat, praise) is given for good behavior, and bad behavior is ignored.

Clicker Training: This method is fairly popular as well. The premise is similar to positive reinforcement. The clicker is used to reinforce good behavior. When you give your dog a command, you click the clicker as they perform that command, so that they associate the click sound with getting a reward, such as a treat.

Relationship-Based Training: This method helps to build the relationship between dog and owner. This effective method is designed to let the owner and dog bond together while training. Read more about relationship-based training.

Positive reinforcement is a great training tool for dogs.

Training Resources


Training Books:

The ASPCA also offers lots of tips and resources to help with many common dog behavior issues.

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