What is animal cruelty?

Animal cruelty covers a range of behaviors that encompass actions that cause harm to animals and in most cases is illegal. These acts run the gambit, from willingly allowing an animal to be tortured, to failing to notify the police or an owner when their pet has been struck by a vehicle. Each state has their own set of animal cruelty laws and penalties associated. While no federal statues directly address animal cruelty, the Animal Welfare Act is the only piece of Congressional legislation regulating the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by animal dealers.

Cruelty to animals falls into two categories, intentional or unintentional cruelty and neglect. Unintentional cruelty and neglect are mostly the same. Both are best described as not providing an animal with proper food, water, shelter, care, or veterinary services. Each can occur with the owner being unaware of the harm they are inflicting upon an animal.

Intentional cruelty encompasses many of the same variables as neglect with one distinction – intent. The owner is fully aware and complicit in the cruelty. This is also commonly referred to as animal abuse. Research shows there is a link between those who have committed acts of abuse on animals and their likelihood to harm other humans.  A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department found that of those arrested for animal crimes, 65 % had also been arrested for battery on another person. 

Currently, most of the 9 billion animals grown and killed for food in the U.S. every year have very little protection under the law from cruelty, be it intentional or unintentional. Most states’ anti-cruelty laws specifically exclude animals in agriculture.  

Further material:

Jonathan is a reporter with Sentient Media.

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