Author: Becky Simmonds of Breed Advisor
As pet owners and animal lovers, it’s unimaginable that anyone would want to hurt these sweet, furry creatures.
Sadly, animal cruelty is incredibly common, and it happens everywhere—from urban areas to the most remote locations. Our nation is no exception.
While it’s virtually impossible to calculate the number of animals who are neglected and abused annually due to underreporting, The Human Society of the United States reports that a whopping 71% of domestic abusers are also cruel to their pets. Additionally, 88% of people under surveillance for child abuse commit animal abuse as well.
Preventing Animal Cruelty at the Congressional Level
Although the above-mentioned statistics are disheartening, Breed Advisor is devoted to stopping animal cruelty in its tracks. We’re encouraged that congressional leaders have gotten involved by passing the 2018 PAWS Act, which criminalizes animal abuse, and ensures domestic violence survivors are able to keep their beloved pets. Although long overdue, this act was passed at a pivotal time in history, as domestic abuse cases have skyrocketed due to stay-at-home orders and mounting stress caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Ending Animal Cruelty: A Guide for Individuals
We’re thrilled to see government getting involved in the prevention of animal cruelty, but it’s important to note that there are countless steps we can take at the individual and community levels to ensure safety, security, and the best possible quality of life for each and every animal.
Spaying and Neutering Your Pets
Pet overpopulation is a massive problem in the United States. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that approximately 6.5 million pets are surrendered to animal shelters each year—about 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats. Sadly, 1.5 million of these former pets go on to be euthanized.
One way to help cut down on overpopulation is by spaying or neutering your pet(s). In addition to playing a part in controlling overpopulation, benefits of spaying and neutering include a longer, happier lifespan, reduced risk of health problems, and in some cases, improved behavior.
Offering to Help Pet Owners in Need
Even the most loyal, loving pet owners sometimes require assistance. Major life events can result in stress, along with other mental or physical health concerns. In some cases, folks simply can’t continue to care for their pets due to unforeseen circumstances.
If a neighbor or loved one is struggling to offer their pet(s) basic care and plenty of TLC, offer to pet sit, foster the pet(s) until life returns to normal, or gently discuss other alternatives. Sometimes an uncomfortable conversation is necessary to ensure a pet’s safety and wellbeing.
Practice compassion, and refrain from being accusatory, as this could result in additional stress.
Stopping the Cycle
Just like survivors of domestic abuse, children who witness animal abuse are likely to perpetuate the cycle. It’s heartbreaking that many boys and girls who grow up in abusive households see animal cruelty as “normal.” If a child engages in or witnesses animal abuse, the Animal Welfare Institute encourages parents to reach out to a mental health professional for help. Being a proactive parent can help break the abuse cycle.
If you are the parent of a child in a pet-free home, or if your child hasn’t engaged in or witnessed animal abuse, you can set an excellent example by teaching your kiddo to treat animals with respect—and advocate for those who are mistreated or otherwise in need.
Reporting Animal Cruelty
If you’ve ever witnessed animal abuse, you know it’s downright gut-wrenching. Although it’s difficult to observe this type of cruelty, it’s crucial to take note of the events and contact law enforcement right away.
Some states require a call to the local police precinct, while others urge witnesses to contact a local animal shelter or animal control agency.
Be sure to research the requirements in your state, so you’ll know who to call in case of an emergency.
Below, we outline important information to gather to help ensure an effective investigation:
- A written statement – You’ll need to provide your local agency with a written account of the witnessed abuse or neglect. It’s important to write legibly, include dates and times when possible, and to only state the facts. You’ll likely need to answer a series of questions during the interview process, but writing down everything you remember about the incident will ensure you don’t omit any important details.
- Contact information – A vital component of reporting animal cruelty is providing contact information. Include your own contact details, along with the information of any other witnesses and the perpetrator’s info, when possible.
Note: While you can report animal cruelty anonymously, law enforcement is most likely to follow through with an investigation when credible witnesses are involved. Witness accounts are also important when a cruelty case goes to court.
- Photographic evidence – If you can take photos without putting yourself in harm’s way, this evidence could be the proof law enforcement needs to complete a full investigation. If possible, take photographs of the abused or neglected animal, along with photos of the immediate and surrounding areas.
Note: Never risk your own safety, and don’t enter private property without permission. While photos are helpful, they aren’t required to launch an investigation.
- Copies for your records – While we wish every animal cruelty case led to a fast, thorough investigation, this isn’t always the case. Be sure to keep copies of your statement, along with written accounts of any interactions with other witnesses and law enforcement officers. Jot down detailed notes following every conversation, and continue to be proactive. If investigators don’t follow-up regularly, check in with the investigating agency for updates on the case.
Advocating for Animal Rights
Below are a few effective ways to eradicate animal cruelty by advocating for animal rights:
- Get the word out by educating your family members and friends on the prevalence and outcomes of animal cruelty. Sharing this article is a great starting point! Your fervor for protecting animal rights will likely spark passion in others.
- Reach a wider audience by informing others on social media. By sharing facts, statistics, and stories of animals in need, you’ll potentially open the hearts of your followers, and as an advocate, they’ll likely contact you if they have a question about animal abuse or neglect.
- Follow legislators, reputable animal rights organizations, and activists on social media.This will keep you informed of current events and legislation involving animal rights. Social media is a great way to directly reach policymakers and change-makers about important animal rights-related issues.
- Become an ASPCA advocate. Sign up to receive emails highlighting advocacy opportunities in your state. You’ll also receive exclusive invitations to local events and virtual instruction. Be sure to share the info you receive on social media, as it will connect you with likeminded advocates.
- Get personal. While social media is a great starting point, personalized emails highlighting facts and personal accounts are more likely to touch the hearts of local legislators. To access contact information for your local representatives, check out the ASPCA’s Legislator Lookup.
As the staff at Breed Advisor continue to do our part in preventing animal cruelty, we invite you to join us. While animal abuse and neglect are heartbreaking and difficult to face head-on, we’re determined to band together to put an end to the mistreatment of these innocent creatures.
As Albert Einstein famously said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
We must all do our part to make the world a better place for those who cannot speak up for themselves, including our four-legged friends.