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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Suspect Animal Abuse Ways You Can Help

Suspect Animal Abuse? Ways You Can Help

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If you witnessed animal abuse, would you know what to do?

Most people feel powerless when they see an animal in need. They wonder who to call to get help for a pet that has no access to food, water or shelter or that may even be suffering from physical abuse. They worry whether their call will result in immediate help for the pet or simply cause friction between themselves and their neighbors.

People who care about animals can take an active role to ensure that pets are well-treated by reporting suspected neglect and abuse to the appropriate local authorities. 

Depending on your community, state animal cruelty laws may be enforced by a city or county animal control agency or by investigating officers of a local humane society.  (How can you find out?  Ask your animal control agency about the investigations jurisdiction for a particular ZIP code.)

Most reported cruelty cases are actually neglect cases where pets have been left without the basic necessities of life. In these instances, the investigating officer visits the pet’s caretaker, providing information and education on proper pet care. This is an important intervention on behalf of the pet. The officer gives the pet owner a chance to make amends for the results of ignorance. There is usually a follow-up visit to the home to ensure the pet is receiving better care. If not, the officer may remove the pet from the home.

In some instances, however, a pet’s life may be in immediate jeopardy. Pets may be ill or starving, denied veterinary care, and even physically abused by their owners. In these instances, officers intervene right away to remove an abused pet from the property in order to save the pet’s life.

Animal cruelty reports are generally kept anonymous. If you witness a person actually striking a pet, you may be asked to testify in court. But in most cases, the evidence of the animal’s condition (as documented by a veterinarian or investigating officer) is enough to prosecute these cases. However, you can help the officers successfully prosecute cruelty cases by taking certain common-sense precautions:

  • Record and report as many details as you can, but don’t take the law in your own hands
  • Avoid confrontations
  • Don’t trespass or remove the animal

As attitudes about the humane treatment of pets have progressed and penalties for animal abuse have increased over the years, more people realize the need to stand up for neglected or abused pets. Look around your community to be sure all animals are being treated with compassion and respect. If you suspect animal neglect or abuse, please report it to the proper authorities in your community. Your phone call may save a pet’s life.

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