As truly abhorrent as the idea of animal abuse may be, the fact is that it does occur. Since animals themselves are helpless to do anything to stop the cruel treatment they are receiving, it falls to others to watch out for signs of animal abuse and take action. Doing so can not only help the abused animal to receive the love and care they truly deserve, it may actually save their life.

5 Signs of Animal Abuse

Animal abuse is generally understood as the infliction physical pain, suffering or death upon an animal for sport, the indulgence of cruel and vindictive tempers or with complete indifference to its pain. Following are five key signs that an animal is being abused:

1. Poor physical condition. This includes a filthy coat, severe matting, open sores and obvious wounds. Neglecting an animal so that it suffers poor physical condition is definitely animal abuse.

2. An absence of sufficient food and water. An animal that is not getting sufficient food and water will often be thin and lethargic–he may even become aggressive.

3. No shelter. Whether it is exposed to constant sun or inclement weather, an abused animal will not have the proper shelter for the conditions they are living in.

4. Living in a cage or on a rope. An animal that has been confined to a cage or the end of a rope and who has very little room to move, stand or turn is being abused.

5. The animal exhibits strange behavior. An abused animal is often very aggressive or shy–especially toward their owner.

What to Do

If you witness or even suspect animal abuse is occurring, you should speak up to the owner. If you feel uncomfortable doing so, you can call 911 or your local human society or animal shelter so they can come out and investigate. It will be highly valuable to the cruelty investigation to share with them as many details as possible–including the location, date, and time of the abuse, as well as the people and animals involved in the abuse. If you are able to photograph or video the abuse, it will be immensely helpful. You may be asked to testify about what you witnessed, and you can do so anonymously if desired, though being willing to identify yourself can often strengthen the case the abuser.

It’s important to remember that when you suspect or know animal abuse is occurring, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Even where you feel it may somehow put you in danger to report the situation, it is better to figure out a safe way to anonymously do so, in order that the abused animal can receive the help they desperately need.