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How to spot pet neglect or cruelty and what you should do

Sadly, pet neglect and cruelty are all too common in the world today. Hopefully you have not and will not encounter situations in which you witness pet mistreatment, but we should all be prepared. If we know what to look for and how to report what we see, we create a safer environment for our pets and other pets as well.

Why spotting pet abuse is important

Learning to spot signs of cruelty or neglect serves a two-fold purpose. First, we should seek to alleviate the suffering of any pet that is being mistreated. In some cases a pet’s life can be saved and vastly improved through the positive actions of someone who witnesses and reports pet abuse. Second, as responsible pet owners, it is part of our job to safeguard our own pets against possible hazards. This includes being aware of other animals and the possible threats they may pose. Neglected pets often become carriers for diseases and pest infestations since their owners often don’t take the precautions to protect them. Your pet is put at greater risk if he or she comes into contact with neglected pets that haven’t had correct treatment. Similarly, pets that are victims of cruelty may be prone to lashing out in unexpected ways if they feel threatened by you or your pet. Thus, seeing and reporting pet neglect and cruelty serves not only the victimized pet but it also protects you and your pet from potential harm.

How to identify signs of neglect

Neglect is most often a case where a pet owner is unable to or chooses to no longer take responsibility for the care of an animal. While the intent is not malicious (indeed, neglect is more often a general lack of intent or simply a lack of correct care information), the results of neglect can still be devastating for an animal. Some common manifestations of neglect are malnourishment, insufficient or inappropriate shelter, and failure to provide for grooming and health needs.

Signs of malnourishment:

The pet is very skinny with its ribs and backbone showing. There is no evidence that the owner provides sufficient or correct food. The pet has a severe lack of energy. The pet’s bowel movements are irregular. Hair loss, clumping of the fur, or a dull coat.

Signs of insufficient or inappropriate shelter:

The pet is exposed to extreme temperatures and weather (for example, a dog that is tied out in a snowstorm with no access to cover or a dog that is tied outside on an extremely hot day with no access to shade or water). The pet is confined in a space that is too small for it to comfortably inhabit. The pet’s cage or living space is creating a health hazard (no proper waste disposal, bars or slats that are causing harm to the feet). This category also includes the confinement of pets in dangerously hot cars.

Signs of lacking grooming and health care:

Dull, overly matted, or mangy fur. Bald spots in the pet’s coat. Excessive fleas, ticks, or other pests. Open sores. Feces caught in the pet’s hair around the hindquarters. Overall lack of energy and appetite.

How to identify signs of pet cruelty

Cruelty qualifies as intentional abuse and harm done to a pet. Cruelty often occurs if a pet owner mistreats a pet out of malicious intent or if that owner uses excessively harmful training and correction methods. Cruelty in action is not usually difficult to identify. It ranges anywhere from disturbing or unduly frightening a pet for one’s own amusement to endangering or even ending the life of a pet. If you understand the context of the situation and the intent of the pet owner, you can usually determine if you are seeing pet cruelty.

Signs of pets that have been abused include:

Evidence of injuries (limping, broken legs or tails, cuts or other wounds, clipped ears, singed or cut whiskers)

Skittishness and timidity in the pet (the pet seems nervous, unaccustomed to kind handling, and reacts to anything that can be perceived as threatening, such as a slightly raised hand).

How to report cases of pet neglect and cruelty

If you witness events of cruelty or evidence of cruelty or neglect, there are ways to report these incidents to proper authorities. Your prompt and well-informed action may do much to alleviate a pet’s suffering. Refer to the links below for more information about how to report incidents of pet neglect and abuse in Georgia.

http://www.agr.georgia.gov/animal-cruelty-faqs.aspx

https://www.humanesociety.org/issues/abuse_neglect/tips/cruelty_action.html

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