How to Recognize Animal Cruelty



By Andrew Puccetti

One of the most important skills an animal lover should have is the ability to recognize and report animal cruelty. It’s unfortunate that the need for such a skill exists, but being able to identify when an animal’s well-being is compromised can help save countless lives. The best way to recognize animal cruelty is to examine the animal and its physical environment. Here are some things you might look for:

Physical signs

  • Open wounds
  • Untreated skin conditions
  • Fur infested with parasites, like fleas or ticks
  • Weakness, limping, or an inability to stand normally
  • Chafing or wounds on neck from a too-tight collar
  • Extreme thinness
  • Discharge coming out of eyes or nose
  • Signs of confusion or drowsiness
  • Matted fur
  • A guardian striking or somehow physically abusing the animal

Environmental signs

  • Pet being tied up for long periods of time
  • Little/no access to clean water and proper food
  • Pet kept in unsanitary conditions
  • Pet kept in kennel or cage that is too small for normal movement, or in area with many other animals
  • Pet has no protection from the elements when outside (shade, water) (Note: In Illinois, it is against the law for an animal to be left outside in extreme heat or cold)

What to do if you see animal cruelty

If you see these signs, it is important for the safety and health of the animal to report the cruelty. Find out who is in charge of investigating and enforcing animal cruelty codes in your town, county, and/or state. These are people that usually work for your local humane organization, animal control agency, police department, and/or tax-funded animal shelter.

If you are unable to figure out who you should contact, call or visit your local police department and ask for help. If they are unable to help, ask your local animal shelter or animal control agency for advice.

Tips for reporting abuse

Write a written, factual statement of what was observed. Exact dates and times should be included. You may want to do this before searching for a contact, when you’re clearest on the details.

Try to photograph the abuse. Also with exact dates and times listed.

Try to get witnesses. If they’re willing to, have them give written statements as well.

Make sure to keep records. Keep a list of who you speak to, as well as the date, the content, and outcome of the conversation.

Keep copies of everything. It is important that you have a copy for yourself of any documents you hand out to other people.

Make it known that you are willing to proceed in the case. Offer assistance wherever you can.

Follow up. If you do not receive a response within a reasonable point of time, present the case to the supervisor, and if necessary, call local government officials.

Try to obtain expert support. Expert witnesses are often necessary in animal cruelty cases, and can make or break the outcome. Find a veterinarian or animal rescue working who is willing to back up your claim if need be.

Don’t be shy about standing up for those without a voice—when you report animal cruelty, you give an animal a chance at life.

Though only fifteen years old, Andrew Puccetti has already shown immense dedication and passion for the well-being of animals. Every other week Andrew will be here talking about the relationship between young people and animal rights–how they can make a difference, how they are already making a difference, and how important it is for kids to continue the fight for our animal companions. Learn about Andrew’s non-profit organization Live Life Humane and check out his blog!


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