Is animal abuse a crime? The answer isn’t so simple, even though it’s relatively easy to report animal abuse to law enforcement. Originally passed in 1966 and amended several times since then, the Animal Welfare Act is the only federal law that governs the treatment of animals. Its regulations are restricted to animal research and exhibition.
It’s important to note that the AWA mainly addresses a small number of warm-blooded animals, such as cats, dogs, rabbits, and primates. That means that all cold-blooded animals, as well as birds, mice, and rats, are excluded from this law. Everything else is left up to individual states to determine what is considered animal abuse, and whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony.
What Some Counties And States Are Doing About It
In the past few years, local county governments have been taking signs of animal abuse very seriously by implementing a new Animal Abuse Registry Act. So in short, when you report animal abuse, convicted criminals will now be documented in a database similar to a sex offender registry. Several counties in New York, as well as Cook County in Illinois and Hillsborough County in Florida, have their own animal cruelty registries. In addition, Tennessee became the very first to create a statewide registry.
One thing that is universal across all 50 states is that it’s illegal to abandon a pet. Too often, people abandon their pets when they’re moving to a new place and cannot take their animal with them. Two of the most common reasons are the inability to find pet-friendly housing and no longer being able to afford taking care of their animal. Back during the mortgage crisis in 2008, real estate agents frequently found abandoned pets in foreclosed homes. Things have gotten better since then, but animal abandonment is still a very real crime that happens across the country.
What Does It Mean If Someone Is Convicted Of Animal Cruelty?
It’s tricky because so many states have different standards for what constitutes as animal abuse. However, you can perform a criminal record check to be sure that someone isn’t an animal abuser. Within a few minutes, you’ll discover if your next door neighbor, child’s teacher, or even coworker has ever been found guilty of animal cruelty. A criminal record search will list any crimes that someone has been convicted of.
Why is this so important? Studies show that people who abuse animals are more likely to go on to commit violence against other humans. So they’re not only a threat to animals, but possibly also your children, family, and local community. Making a call to report animal abuse can protect your entire neighborhood.
What Are The Signs Of Animal Abuse?
Animal cruelty is broken up into two main categories: passive and active abuse. Below are a few of the most common types.
Types Of Animal Abuse
- Emotional & Verbal
- Physical Violence
- TV & Movie Productions
- Factory Farming
- Cultural Rituals
While you should be familiar with the animal cruelty laws in your state and county, there’s more you can do. Every animal behaves differently, but there are a few distinct signs that could point to neglect or abuse. These are all cause for concern on their own, and you should report them as soon as possible.
An Animal May Be Abused If
- It has unclean or matted fur that may be covered in fleas. Cats in particular groom themselves very often, so there is definitely something wrong if you find one with a dirty coat.
- It appears to be unfed, or begs you for food. If the animal looks emaciated, especially if you can see its bones, it might not have been fed in days.
- It exhibits overly aggressive or anxious behavior.
- It’s in an environment that’s unsanitary or overcrowded with other animals.
What Else Can I Do?
How To Report Animal Abuse
You can make a huge difference in an animal’s life if you report animal abuse that you see or suspect.
- In most areas, the local animal control department handles cases of abuse and cruelty. They’re also the number to call if a dog is barking too loudly or frequently in your neighborhood, or if you find a wild animal in a place where it clearly doesn’t belong. Do some research online to find out which department, agency, or organization you should call in your county.
- Gather all the evidence you can of the abuse, such as the date, time, location, and any other relevant information. If possible, take photos, record video and audio, and even record witness statements.
- Follow up on the case after you submit your complaint and evidence to the appropriate parties. Stay involved and continue to give them as much information as possible. Call and find out if more investigation has been done, or if the abuser has been found guilty. It’s just a small way to make your community safer.
- If you witness an emergency situation where an animal is being brutally abused, immediately call the police.
How To Stop Animal Abuse From Happening
In a perfect world, animal abuse would never happen in the first place. But because we live in one with people who don’t always have the best intentions, it’s unfortunately too common. Animals, especially domesticated animals, need us to speak up for them when they’re being mistreated. That’s why you should do what you can to not only report animal abuse, but prevent it from happening.
- Report animal abuse as soon as you see it happen. Don’t confront the person yourself – let animal control and the police handle it.
- Learn more about the animal cruelty laws in your state, and continue to stay up-to-date with any changes or new laws.
- Donate to local charities and organizations supporting the well-being of animals. Volunteer your time at a shelter, or even adopt a pet from one.
- Don’t support companies that test on animals. While certain industries do not require animal testing in America, they might in other countries, such as China. That means that in order to sell their products overseas, some businesses will agree to animal testing.
- Show kindness and compassion to animals, particularly domesticated ones that can’t take care of themselves without our help.
As new laws continue to develop, it’ll be easier to find convicted animal abusers through registries. In the meantime, continue to do whatever you can to keep your pets, family, and neighborhood safe.
You May Also Like: What Can You Learn About Someone’s Criminal Past?