A vast majority of animal cruelty cases involve animal neglect. Falling within this category are all of the following situations:
Animal Hoarding: When someone is housing more animals than they are able to physically take care of, this is defined as hoarding.
Visual Indications: You may look at an animal and immediately notice that it is in need of veterinary care. There are a number of red flags you may notice such as the animal being excessively skinny, having untreated wounds, scabs or hair loss.
Inadequate Shelter: If the weather is very hot or very cold, there need to be provisions for pets kept outdoors, which include providing them with proper shelter. Without it, pets can die.
Chained Dogs: It is unethical to keep a dog chained to a tree or a post as a way of life. Dogs who are tethered suffer from social isolation, exposure to the elements and are made vulnerable to predators.
Abandonment: You may be surprised to learn that a staggering number of animals die every year when their owners abandon them completely. This is the scenario that often happens: the homeowners move quickly to another residence and simply leave their pets behind in their old home. This is why it is a good idea to take a mental note of vacated homes and listen for animal sounds in and around the residence.
Sadly, neglect is not the only way that animals are abused. Some animals are victims of direct violence.
Direct Violence: If you see someone beating or physically attacking an animal, time is of the essence. Don’t turn your back and hope it will never happen again. The Humane Society of the United States stresses the urgency of reporting cases of violence when they say, “Especially when violence is concerned, it’s crucial to involve law enforcement, because violence toward animals is often part of a larger pattern of violence that includes people as well as animals.”
Where to Begin
PETA recommends first finding out which agency is responsible for investigating and enforcing the anti-cruelty laws where you live. This could be your local Humane Society or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Your local animal control is another option. If none of these offices are available in your town, contact the police or sheriff’s department.
Preparing the Evidence
The more proof that you have that abuse is happening, the better. To make it official, the first thing you need to do is prepare a written statement for the authorities. It should provide a short, factual statement that details the key points of what you have seen. Be sure to write down dates, locations and approximate times. If possible, take pictures to back up your case. If you know of others that have witnessed the abuse, have them document their experience as well.
PETA recommends keeping a written record of everyone you contact and what you were told was being done about it. Make it clear to the authorities that you are willing to help with the case in any way that they need. Be aware that there is a chance you could be called on to testify against the owner of the animal. Be sure to contact the caseworker periodically, in order to follow up on what is happening. The more you stay involved, the more likely they will be to make sure the situation is resolved.
What to Expect
If authorities agree that the animal is being neglected, their first course of action may be to speak with the owner, issue them a citation and give them a chance to correct the problem. However, if the neglect or abuse is considered to be extreme, the animal may be taken into custody by a humane agency. This agency will then present their case to the prosecutor’s office to determine what steps to take next, such as possible prosecution.