Today we’re looking at a difficult subject: animal abuse.
It’s often hard to spot the signs of animal abuse, as we can put a lot of tell-tale signs down to a pet’s personality, or illness or simple paranoia on our part.
What’s important to remember, though, is if someone is investigated for animal abuse and there’s no evidence that abuse is taking place, nothing bad happens (and you can report possible abuse anonymously) – whilst if someone is allowed to continue abusing their animal, a wonderful and loving pet could die before they find the equally wonderful and loving owner they deserve.
So long as you report suspected abuse to the relevant authorities, rather than trying to enforce justice yourself, there is very little that can go wrong.
Here are the most obvious signs of animal abuse.
5. Extremely Skinny Animals
‘Abuse’ isn’t just a term reserved for physical harm; failing to provide your pet with an adequate diet is equally life-threatening! If an animal looks undernourished, it is suffering.
This might not even be something the owner is aware of. Aging cats that once caught some of their own food might not be able to fend for themselves so well, and pets of all kinds that develop dental problems will lose weight fairly rapidly.
Weight loss might also be due to an illness. Look for additional environmental factors, such as being tied outside in the same spot every day, or an abnormally large number of other pets in the same household.
4. Obvious Confusion and Disorientation
Animals that are confused and disorientated are much more likely to be suffering from abuse right now than animals who are timid or aggressive.
Timidity and aggression can be lifelong reactions to abuse at an early age. Although tragic, these features might not be the owner’s responsibility.
Confusion and disorientation, though, are symptomatic of undernourishment, untreated illness and a lack of appropriate stimuli in the animal’s environment.
3. Weakness or Awkward Gait
An awkward gait, or significant weakness, often shows up very late.
As always, it’s important to remember that this could be due to illness or old age, but if the animal looks young, and if the animal shows confusion and disorientation or is very bony, then the possibility of animal abuse is very real.
If an animal looks like it’s struggling to get around and its owner doesn’t seem particularly bothered, or never seems to be around, it might be worth reporting.
2. Absent Owners
If there are signs that an owner is rarely present, such as lights that never come on or off regardless of time of day, or the animal in question is always seen in the same place – for example, always tied up in the garden – this could constitute neglect.
There may have been a misunderstanding but owners should not be away from their pets for more than a few days at a time, and obviously ideally they should avoid even that! In fact, young puppies shouldn’t even be left alone for more than a few hours on end.
Absent owners might lead to serious health problems, dehydration and starvation.
1. Visible Wounds
Of course, the number one sign is visible wounds. It sounds obvious, but people often don’t think of abuse even when they see signs like this.
Many of my friends have stories of driving through deprived areas, and seeing signs of poverty such as burnt-out cars, trash dumped in front gardens… and flea-ridden, mangy dogs with scabs all over their bodies.
It often takes a full minute of me staring at them in disbelief before they realize:
“Hey, maybe I should have called someone about that dog, huh?”
This is the most important takeaway: it’s easy to see signs of abuse without really seeing them.
It’s our responsibility, and no-one else’s, to report these signs as soon as we see them, to as many authorities as possible.
You may just save a life!
Louise Blake writes about animal care for Anicura, which offers a range of pet sprays and shampoos designed to take care of skin conditions such as eczema and mange in pets.