Animal abuse is one of the most important topics for us to discuss, but it’s also among the most difficult to contemplate. Animal lovers can’t understand the psychology behind animal abuse, yet it happens every day.
In many cases, abuse isn’t as obvious as one might think. For instance, a dog owner who leaves the animal outside in 100-degree temperatures without water or shade all day is abusing that dog, yet there might not be outward signs of the abuse.
Animal abuse also often takes place far from the public’s prying eyes. You wouldn’t know if your neighbor was abusing an animal unless he or she brought the activity outside where you could see it.
That’s why we need to understand animal abuse, break down what it entails, and fight against it at every opportunity. If nobody speaks up or stops the abuse, it will continue to occur.
What Is Animal Abuse?
Animal abuse is the treatment of any animal that causes physical or psychological damage. That’s a pretty broad definition, but we’ll break down some of the most common manifestations in a minute.
What you need to know right now is that animals are sentient beings. They experience fear, pain, and other negative emotions just like your pets experience joy, love, and contentment.
There are two basic types of animal abuse:
- Commercial: Animal abuse that is committed for the purpose of furthering an organization’s profits.
- Personal: Animal abuse that occurs between a person and an animal.
While large-scale animal abuse might seem like the most important issue to tackle, there’s no such thing as a “minor” abuse situation. Any one person who abuses a single animal should be brought to justice.
That’s why most governments around the world have laws against animal cruelty. Law enforcement investigates reports of animal abuse and takes appropriate action.
Some might argue that there’s a third, less obvious, type of animal abuse: Ignorance. If a person doesn’t know how to take care of an animal and causes the animal harm because of that ignorance, abuse takes place.
This doesn’t mean, however, that ignorance is excused. There are plenty of resources available to anyone who wants to learn how to properly care for an animal. This includes providing adequate nutrition, hydration, room to move, exercise, and socialization.
What Animals Are Most Abused?
Some animals are more frequently targeted for abuse than others. Ranking at the top of the list, of course, are household pets like dogs and cats. Animal cruelty can involve actively abusing an animal, neglecting that animal, or abandoning the animal.
Livestock and animals used for entertainment purposes are also often abused, sometimes in large-scale operations. These animals can’t fight for themselves, and in many cases, there are no laws against their mistreatment.
For instance, you can’t cut off your dog’s nose without breaking the law — it’s animal abuse — but factory farmers can de-beak chickens without penalty. The disproportionate laws concerning animal cruelty are among the first things that require addressing.
Let’s take a closer look at the animals most often subjected to abuse.
Human beings have stronger relationships with dogs than any other animal. We domesticated them long before we domesticated other animals, such as cats and horses, and we’ve bred them throughout history to work in collaboration with us.
We’ve trained dogs to hunt, retrieve, protect livestock, herd other animals, and serve as our companions. Thousands of dogs help people with disabilities live more autonomous lives. Some provide comfort to people in hospice care, while others live as family pets, part of a cohesive unit.
Yet dogs are among the most frequently abused animals.
In some cases, the animal becomes aggressive because of an oppositional relationship with a human, which gives the human the excuse he or she needs to continue to punish the animal. Dogs get shocked by collars, pitted against other dogs in fights, and neglected to the point of starvation.
Some dogs get abused because their owners are involved in other illegal activity, such as drugs or guns. The dog becomes a form of “muscle” and gets abused as a way to toughen him up.
Other dogs are abused because their owners are animal hoarders. A hoarder sees his or her behavior as compassionate even though the dogs are kept in tight spaces and aren’t given sufficient food.
Hundreds of other instances of dog abuse exist, from puppy mills and other negligent breeding standards to dogs punished for natural behaviors, such as resource guarding.
There are millions of cats who live as pets in the United States alone. Some live indoors much like their canine counterparts, while others are allowed to wander more freely. Unfortunately, some wind up as victims of animal abuse.
Just as with dogs, animal cruelty toward cats can result from either intentional or neglectful care. A cat who is intentionally abused might have obvious injuries or lack the energy to move as normal. Neglectful care can result in emaciation, flea and tick infestations, parasites, and other consequences.
Cats naturally like to roam and explore. They’re among the most curious of creatures — which might have spawned the old adage about curiosity killing cats — and many are loving parts of their families.
Many people mistakenly believe that cats aren’t social creatures. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you’ve ever witnessed a group of cats curled up on the sofa in a loving home, you know that they crave connection just as much as dogs. Some might have more solitary personalities than others, but they’re still social.
Cats are sometimes victims of teenage pranks that result in serious harm. Because they’re often allowed to roam the neighborhood, they’re easy targets for stranger abuse.
Like dogs, cats sometimes wind up with hoarders who receive no intervention. Additionally, people who declaw their cats and allow them to roam put the cats at risk for predation.
Although horses are larger than dogs or cats, they’re among the most abused animals. Equine abuse often stems from painful training methods that cause systematic harm.
For instance, saddleseat horses are expected to lift their legs high off the ground with each stride. Unscrupulous trainers use weights and chains to strengthen their legs and to make them step higher in competition. They have even been known to shave their hooves to expose the nerves. Each step causes the animal significant pain.
Some horse abuse occurs because of ignorant neglectfulness. Someone might have lots of horses on his or her property and fail to care for them properly.
Additionally, certain bits and other tack cause horses pain and can lead to sores and other injuries.
It’s important to remember that, while training horses for sport is a great way to bond with these beautiful creatures, it’s not a license to force them into servitude. A true horse trainer uses positive training methods and never forces an animal to do something that scares him.
Some people keep birds as pets, whether they’re finches or parrots. More often than not, bird abuse happens in the form of neglect.
For instance, all birds have very specific dietary requirements. If those needs aren’t met, they get sick and, in the worst cases, die from the abuse.
Birds can also become prey to other animals in the house. If a neglectful bird owner leaves the cage accessible to a cat, for instance, the cat might eat the bird. That isn’t the cat’s fault, but the human’s.
What Are the Different Types of Animal Abuse?
We’ve talked about several forms of animal abuse, but it’s important to understand each type and why it occurs. If we’re cognizant of the role animals play in meeting human desires, we can start to chip away at it.
Animals used for entertainment purposes are sometimes abused. Many zoos and other similar organizations provide amazing habitats for animals that live in captivity for one reason or another. However, they’re not all well-kept or adequate for the animals confined there.
Animal abuse exists on movie sets and at animal shows. When animals are forced to work in service to humans, the human can always use his or her power to dominate the animal.
Animal fighting has been a sport for many years. Roosters and dogs are the most frequent victims of these “sporting” events.
An animal fight involves putting two or more animals in an enclosure together. One of the animals must kill the other to “win.” Attendees bet on which animal will come out victorious in the fight, so the event generates money for those who participate.
Fighting is considered animal abuse and often goes hand-in-hand with other crimes. The important thing to realize is that these animals don’t consent to the fighting, and they must be brutally trained so they’ll react aggressively when faced with another animal.
Some dog breeds, such as the American pit bull, are among the most targeted for dog fighting.
Animal experimentation involves using animals, from rabbits and rats to monkeys and dogs, to test products on their way to market. Several industries rely on animal testing to fuel their research, including pharmaceuticals, beauty, and food.
Animal testing involves subjecting these animals to potentially irritating, painful, or even life-threatening substances. They’re housed by themselves in cages so there’s no cross-contamination between animals, and they’re denied a life outside those cages.
There’s nothing illegal about animal experimentation, which is why many people don’t consider it animal abuse. However, witnessing it for yourself would likely convince you otherwise.
There are smarter, healthier, and cruelty-free ways to test consumer products.
Animals in factory farming operations, such as cows and chickens, endure horrific animal abuse from the moment they’re born. Most live their short lives in cages or pens, often packed in with other animals of their species, and injected with hormones.
Chickens get de-beaked so they can’t harm one another, cows are continuously bred without thought to their well-being, and most animals in factory farming operations are slaughtered.
It is these operations that produce the products at your local supermarket’s meat counter. If you don’t want to contribute to factory farming, going vegan or becoming a vegetarian will help. By not putting your money into these businesses’ pockets, you protest their inhumane treatment of animals.
Animal abuse doesn’t always involve torture or overt physical abuse. Failing to feed, hydrate, exercise, and otherwise care for an animal is also considered animal abuse.
For instance, if a pet in someone’s home gets sick, it’s the pet owner’s responsibility to get the animal veterinary care. Additionally, vaccinations help protect all animals from serious and even deadly diseases.
Anyone who physically injures an animal on purpose is guilty of animal abuse. This could involve hitting, kicking, stabbing, or beating with a blunt object.
There are several ramifications of beating an animal.
For one thing, the animal experiences pain. They often vocalize as a result of this pain, and they can incur serious and lasting injuries.
Abused animals often become aggressive as a result. They might try to run from the abuser, but if that doesn’t work, survival instinct kicks in. The animal doesn’t want to hurt anyone but must fight back to stay alive.
In families with children, adults who abuse animals teach their kids that it’s an acceptable way to interact with a pet. Those children grow up, have pets of their own, and perpetuate the cycle.
How Can We Stop Animal Abuse and Cruelty?
There’s no one way to stop animal abuse. However, when more people get involved in the fight against animal cruelty, abusers get exposed and held accountable for their crimes. Additionally, battling animal cruelty with your wallet sends a clear message to companies that use animals for testing or human food.
If you want to help stop animal cruelty, you can follow this blueprint.
Recognize the Abuse
There’s no way to stop animal abuse if you don’t know what it looks like. Most people know instinctively that kicking a dog is animal abuse, but they might not recognize the subtler forms.
Reading articles like this one and others on the Sentient Media blog, watching YouTube videos, and getting involved with organizations like the ASPCA and PETA can help you gather information.
While you’re learning to recognize animal abuse, educate others. Tell the people in your life about what’s going on and how they can help.
Understand the Laws on Animal Abuse
Every jurisdiction has its own set of laws concerning animals rights. You can talk to a law enforcement officer or look up the laws on the Internet.
If you know what’s against the law and what isn’t, you’ll know when to report a crime.
Report the Abuse
Let’s say that you witness an act of cruelty against an animal. You can stop future events by reporting the abuse. Unfortunately, too many people fail to speak up.
Reporting animal abuse can be emotionally charged. If the abuser is a friend, family member, or neighbor, for instance, you might worry about endangering the relationship.
The problem is that the abuse will continue unless you intervene. One way to ensure you remain anonymous is to tell someone else about the animal abuse and ask him or her to report it.
Fight the Abuse
Speaking up against animal cruelty can help end animal abuse. The more people talk about it and share education about the humane treatment of animals, the less abuse we’ll see.
You could start a blog about animal rights, create YouTube videos promoting humane animal training, or volunteer at your local animal shelter. Most importantly, adopt your animals from rescue organizations. There will always be buyers for pure-bred animals, but those in shelters need homes now.
Stop the Abuse When You See It
You shouldn’t intervene if you witness violence against an animal. That would put you in danger from the abuser. Instead, call 9-1-1 or the emergency line in your location to get the police involved.
If you see neglect or abandonment, you can decide how to proceed. Either you can intervene, such as by confronting a relative who hoards animals, or you can report the animal abuse to the authorities.
Join an Animal Rights Group
Another great way to help prevent animal abuse is to join an animal rights group. These organizations systematically chip away at animal cruelty by spreading awareness, protesting inhumane treatment, and lobbying for better animal rights laws.
Help Prevent Future Animal Abuse
Awareness is the most important thing when it comes to preventing animal abuse. You can stop it when you see it, but only if you can recognize it.
Transition to a vegan diet so you’re not putting cash in the pockets of those who abuse animals. Adopt pets from shelters, start your own animal rights group, or volunteer to help organizations using your specific skill set.
Raising money to prevent animal abuse is also helpful. You might donate to a cause, participate in a fun run, or host a fundraising event. Unfortunately, there are never enough dollars when it comes to funding an animal rights organization.
Animal abuse occurs in many forms, but it shouldn’t occur at all. Animals have rights, and failing to respect those rights has unending consequences.
Create your own statement of ethics. Decide what you value and believe in, then walk the path. The more engaged you are in animal rights issues, the more good you can do for our fellow animals.
Remember that animals have feelings and emotions. They might not express themselves the same way we do, but they need us to champion them.
Have you ever witnessed animal abuse? What are the best ways to fight animal cruelty?