What should you do if you suspect an animal is being abused? Most towns have an animal control officer. They are the first line of contact. Or, if your town doesn't have an animal control officer, call your local police department. You should also consider calling the police if a neighbor is threatening to harm your pet. In some places, written or verbal threats are considered criminal harassments and are subject to potential misdemeanors. If threats are continuous, you may even be able to secure a restraining order.
Before reporting a suspected case of animal abuse, it's important to recognize what constitutes abuse. In some cases, owners neglect their animals not because they want to be deliberately cruel but because they don’t know any better. In either case, they cause pain and suffering to the animal, and as such, the abuse should be reported. The following may be signs of abuse and neglect:
- Tick or flea infestations
- Wounds on the body
- Patches of missing hair
- Extremely thin, starving animal
- An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
- Dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, and often chained in a yard
- Dogs who have been hit by cars—or are showing any of the signs listed here—and have not been taken to a veterinarian
- Dogs who are kept outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions
- Animals who cower in fear or act aggressively when approached by their owners
Often, abuse is not reported. People aren’t always sure whether abuse has taken place, or they are afraid of retribution, particularly if the abuser lives in their neighborhood.