If you are anything like me, your pet is more than just a pet, they are a member of your family. Your fluffy little companion becomes a part of you; you take them everywhere with you. You find yourself splurging on new toys and treats because you can and because you love them that much.
For me, I took my little fluff ball to “puppy classes” as a way for us to bond, training and a fun thing to look forward to besides going to the dog park. At the end of each “puppy class” when she graduated, I would splurge and purchase new toys for her to play with.
My puppy means more to me than just being a pet, she is a valuable member of our family. She is always there at the end of the day when we get home, she is always good for a laugh and someone to cuddle or play with. I could never imagine mistreating her, because she isn’t just a pet, she is a member of our family, which is why we treat her as such.
Unfortunately, not all animals get this kind of treatment. In fact, many are neglected, abused or even abandoned. Think of the Sarah McLachlan animal shelter commercials, with her song playing along with facts about animal abuse accompanied with images of abused and neglected animals. At one point in the commercial McLachlan comes on with the sad song playing that tugs at everyone’s heart strings, trying to entice and appeal for the audience to donate money and help rescue animals from abuse. She informs those that do donate, that their “monthly gift” will help to rescue animals from their abusers, medical care, food, shelter and love. As a way of saying “thank you” for donating, the particular organization that McLachlan is advocating for, will send donors a picture of an animal in a shelter that their contribution is going to help. This tactic works for a couple of different reasons. One being people get attached to their pets that it kills them to see any animal hurt or suffering and two the music choice appeals to people’s ethos.
Aside from appealing to people’s ethos, commercials like McLachlan’s bring attention to a big issue that is often overlooked by many, as it is upsetting and difficult to talk about. The hard reality is that many pets are often neglected or abused by those who are responsible for taking care of them. According to humanesociety.org, it is difficult to accurately calculate how many animals are abused as animal abuse cases are not compiled by state or federal agencies.
While it might be difficult for some to comprehend the fact that people would ever neglect or abuse their pets, it happens more than you might realize. Abuse and neglect of a pet extends beyond physically harming an animal, it includes failure to provide basic care required to thrive, neglect, puppy mills, hoarding and malicious killing of animals.
Although some people do intentionally injure and hurt animals, others do so unintentionally. When animal cruelty is done intentionally, those doing the harm generally are knowingly depriving the animal of food, water, shelter, socialization or veterinary care in minor cases. In more extreme cases of animal abuse and cruelty, those perpetrating the acts can intentionally torture, maim, mutilate or kill animals for pleasure or financial gain.
Having a pet comes with many responsibilities, including financial responsibilities in the form of veterinary expenses, food, and other miscellaneous expenses. When we first brought our puppy home, I was a bit overwhelmed with all of the financial costs that were associated with having a new puppy. We now had another mouth to feed, on top of getting her spayed; if we wanted to leave town, we would either have to take her with us and find places that allowed dogs, generally with a fee, or pay to board her somewhere. Having a pet is an important responsibility, with many aspects that people don’t realize when they first take on a new pet. As a result, some inadvertently neglect their pets simply because they cannot afford to care for them.
Aside from neglecting an animal, by not being able to care for them; many animals are treated cruelly by their owners. Similar to neglect, animal cruelty is the result of many different reasons according to humanesociety.org, the most common of which being a person feeling powerless, unnoticed or under the control of others. As a result, a person may choose to be cruel and mistreat animals by simply copying acts that they have either seen or experienced themselves. For others, they view harming an animal as a way to seek revenge against or to threaten someone who cares about the animal.
Reasons for Animal Abuse, Neglect and Cruelty
There are an immeasurable number of reasons as to why animals are abused and neglected every day. These reasons range from either a deliberate action or in some cases a lack of action that results in harm to an animal. According to wildlife-rescue.org, there are two main categories in which reasons for animal cruelty can be broken down into: active and passive. No matter how you classify the reasons for a person’s cruel behavior towards a helpless animal, there is no justification for the mistreatment and abuse of an animal.
In instances where the abuse and neglect are the result of ignorance on behalf of the owner, education can be used to mitigate future abuse and neglect. For those who need education, will often receive follow up visits to ensure that the situation improves and no further abuse and neglect of their pet occurs. In more serious cases, where actions are intentional, the animal is often removed immediately and taken to receive urgent medical care.
Intentional acts of violence, acts of commission, and cruelty towards a helpless animal is the result of a person’s deliberate intent to cause harm. Often, the perpetrator is using the animal as a way to assert authority or fear over another person. This can happen via threats to kill a family pet, to assert authority, intimidation, threaten someone to remain silent about a current or previous incident or to simply assert their power over their victims.
On the other hand, passive actions of abuse and neglect are often the result of a lack of action on the part of the pet owner. While lack of action or lack of knowledge can sometimes be the reason, it does not erase the fact that animals who suffer as a result often go through extreme amounts of pain and suffering. The most common examples of passive abuse include starvation, dehydration, parasite infestations, inadequate shelter during extreme weather conditions, failure to seek veterinary care when an animal requires medical care.
An example of animal abuse through a lack of action occurred in my hometown. A few years ago, there was an individual who had in their possession heard of horses, all of which they were not feeding. The individual was reported to authorities, which then allowed for the state veterinarian and state brand inspector to step in and assess the situation. Due to the severity of the starvation of the horses, it was advised that they not be transported to a new location as it was likely they would not survive. Volunteers through an informal rescue group were collection donations to feed the horses.
Although, I felt as though I lived in the perfect community, this just goes to show that animal abuse can happen anywhere and to any animal.
Types of Animal Abuse
Now that we understand some of the reasoning behind why animals are abused, it’s important to know what abuse looks like to better understand how to stop it from happening. Abuse and cruelty can take on many different appearances, some more obvious than others. Because some animal abuse occurs on a large scale, involving animal testing and fighting; and others occurs in our own neighborhoods, animal cruelty can be classified into several different categories.
In most cases of animal abuse, there is a deliberate action involving the harming of an animal. The hardest part of being able to stop animal abuse, is that is often does not occur in the open; most instances of animal abuse happens behind closed doors or with no one around to witness the abuse. As a result of not openly seeing abuse happen, it is easy to overlook the fact that it does happen. As a result, most areas have animal control officers who are responsible for enforcing and investigating cases of animal abuse, persecuting the perpetrator and rescuing the animal from the abuser. Although they do help the animal who is being abused, they rely on the abuse being reported to be effective.
Neglect of an animal often stems from ignorance or a lack of interest in the animal. When a pet is injured or sick, as an owner, you are morally and legally obligated to seek out the appropriate veterinary care for your pet. Unfortunately, for some pets, their owner is either unwilling or unable to spend the time and money that is required to heal and treat their sick or injured pet.
Neglect of an animal includes more than failing to seek out veterinary care, it also involves failing to feed or provide water for a pet. Some claim that they “forget” to feed their pet, which is not an excuse for neglecting your pet.
As sad as it may seem, there are actually people who believe that they have a sense of entitlement towards animals and because of this entitlement they are able to use animals however they want. This is generally done in a way that will bring them monetary gain through exploitation. It is not uncommon for some circuses, zoos, aquatic theme parks and other animal centered venues to exploit animals, under the disguise of “entertainment”. When these animals aren’t out performing for a crowd, they are often kept inside tiny cages, forced into submission and are unable to socialize with other animals of their own species. Other examples of animal exploitation include starving animals, accidents as a result of insufficient exhibits, and abuse to get the animals to perform a certain way.
Using animals to test new products is not a new thing, in fact it has been around for many decades. Although, scientific developments have proved that it is unnecessary and less effective than other methods of testing that are available, animal testing does still occur across the globe. As a result of animal testing, many animals are subject to chemicals and substances that result in itching, burning, chronic pain, lost body parts, and other horrific consequences as a result.
A prime example of animal testing, comes form the classic 1992 movie Beethoven. In this movie, a family dog is seen by the vet, who quickly realized that they could use Beethoven to test products on. They device a plan to fake a dog bite, forcing the family to have to put the dog down. Little did the family know that the veterinarian would not be putting the dog to sleep, instead he would join other dogs in their possession and be used for testing. Thankfully, the movie has a happy ending where the family catches on to the plan and is able to rescue not only their beloved Beethoven but the other dogs as well.
Common Issues Associated with Animal Abuse
Now that we’ve established some of the reasons behind animal abuse and cruelty and a few of the many different faces that abuse takes on, it is important to understand what abuse and cruelty looks like in the real world.
Considered to be one of the most horrific aspects of animal cruelty is that of animal fighting. Whether it is bullfighting, cockfighting, dogfighting or simply fighting between two animals, it is horrific to witness. Animal fighting occurs when one animal is pitted against another, resulting in the death of at least one animal.
Animal fighting is defined as including social animals that, in the wild are able to coexist without any problems. Although, they might be able to coexist, there may be a sense of dominance of one animal over another, but they do not fight to the death.
Those who participate or encourage animal fighting do so for more than just the entertainment aspect of it, animal fighting brings in copious amounts of money. Organizers may charge a fee to be an observer of the fight, and will often collect money and facilitate betting between attendees. Organized and non-organized fights occur all across the globe—in developed and underdeveloped countries.
Prior to an organized event, animals are often kept in small cages except for when they are out being trained how to fight. They do not receive any veterinary care—preventative or trauma-related. The animal that “wins” the fight, often is missing body parts, has open wounds, broken bones among other injuries. Animals who are subject to animal fighting often don’t live long, as they either die in a fight or are destroyed when they are no longer able to fight and bring in money.
A few years ago, while visiting another country on a humanitarian trip, I came across a cock fight, which is something that I do not condone nor agree with. The two chickens were showing signs of aggression towards one another and their handler, prior to being placed into the same pen. Once they were locked in the same pen, the aggression worsened, especially when the handler cheered it on. It was a horrific experience to see first-hand. Thankfully, those in my group, along with myself spoke up about the cruelty and asked for the fight to stop because it was something that we all viewed to be wrong and not something that we condoned nor wanted to witness for ourselves. The handler obliged and separated the two chickens before any serious injuries were sustained by either one.
Puppy and Kitty Mills
Chances are, if you’ve ever wanted to bring a tiny puppy or kitten into your home and life, you’ve been advised to adopt from a shelter rather than buying one from a pet store or a breeder online. This is because of puppy and kitty mills, that systematically breed animals for the sole purpose of selling the babies at an inflated price.
Many breeding mills, do not select grown dogs and cats based on their breeding characteristics or genetic health, they just look for an animal that will bring them a profit. As a result, many of the puppies and kittens that are born have congenital conditions that can have a negative effect on their quality of life.
Not only are many not healthy when they are born, they are often kept away from other dogs and cats in tiny cages. This minimizes their playing with other animals and socialization. Because there are so many in a breeding mill, they are typically dirty, undernourished and terrified of humans and animals alike. In the most deplorable of conditions, some are even beaten or abused by those who are running the breeding mill.
We all know someone who loves animals so much, and want to bring them all home with them. Unfortunately, having too many animals can be a form of animal cruelty even when done as an act of kindness. The reality is, those who have copious amounts of animals at home, believe that they are saving animals and are treating them kindly, when they can actually be inflicting harm on the animals unintentionally.
Some of the negative repercussions that come from hoarding too many animals inside one home is that, when one passes away, the owner typically doesn’t realize it—at least not for some time. The smell of urine and feces can be overpowering that they are able to mask the smell of decomposition, which results in horrific and unhealthy living conditions for both humans and animals.
Those who hoard animals, will often bring home more pets with little to no regard to having the animal spayed or neutered. As a result, there are often new litters born, increasing the number of animals inside the home. These new additions often do not receive any veterinary care after they are born.
Just last month, I read a news article about an elderly woman who had more than 100 dogs, living inside her home. Authorities were first notified, when neighbors began to call city officials complaining of a foul smell coming from the home. It wasn’t until authorities arrived that they learned the source of the smell. No dead animals were found inside the home, while some were found to be in worse conditions than others. Authorities who responded to the home, were reported as saying that this was the worst case of animal hoarding that they had ever seen.
All across history, animal pelts and fur have been a luxury, a commodity that can bring in large amounts of money. In years past, settlers and Native Americans would use animals’ pelts and fur for clothing, hats, and blankets; along with eating the meat—not wasting anything. Nowadays, animal pelts are sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, or more depending on the animal in which it came from. This is especially true for endangered animals, in which there is a huge black market, which brings in vast amounts of money for a single pelt.
Depending on the animal pelt, some are “field-stripped”, meaning they are skinned alive in the wild. Others, such as minks and foxes are raised in farms, for the sole purpose of harvesting their fur; in most cases the animal is killed prior to being stripped of their fur. Because things have changed so drastically over the course of time, animal pelts and furs are no longer required for human survival, as they have been replaced with synthetic fibers. But some still prefer the cruel treatment of animals to achieve their fashion statement of having “real” fur on their coats.
How to Stop Animal Abuse
As you can see, animal abuse and cruelty can and often does happen all the time, for a myriad of reasons. Because some instances of abuse are done in private, it is hard to fight back and help animals to escape and survive.
The best way to combat animal abuse and cruelty is to be a voice for the animals who are being abused. When you see abuse or animal cruelty happening, report it. Contact local authorities and report the abuse. Don’t try to confront the abuser yourself, as you may end up getting hurt yourself. It is best to report it to the authorities who have the power to do something and save the animals from any further abuse. Along with reporting animal abuse when you see it, it is equally as important to educate others about what to do if they witness any animal abuse or cruelty happening around them.
On a bigger level, there are many anti-cruelty laws in place which include harsh penalties for those who are committing the cruelty. When penalties are couples with counseling as part of a punishment, there can be a decrease in repeat offenders.
For those who lack the knowledge on how best to care for an animal can really benefit from informational sessions that discuss how to care for a new or old pet, when to seek veterinary care, and how to train a pet. Educating those who don’t know can go a long way to prevent future animal abuse, simply because they didn’t know any different.
There are organizations, such as Human Society, Best Friends Animal Society, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that are committed to stopping and putting an end to the mistreatment and abuse of animals of all kinds. All of these charities have made significant strides in the right direction, yet still have a long way to go to end animal abuse. If you would like to donate to their cause of ending the mistreatment of animals, all across the globe, you can make a donation through the Animal Care Initiative campaign found at: https://agoodcause.com/campaigns/animal-care-initiative/. Together with your help we can fight to end animal abuse and ensure that all animals are loved, well taken care of and enjoy the life that my sweet little puppy enjoys!
Author: Ashley Christensen