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.

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