Fighting Animal Cruelty: Facts, Acts, and How You Can Help

Fighting Animal Cruelty: Facts, Acts, and How You Can Help

A broken-hearted soul peers at you from behind a mangled fence. You scramble for your remote as the music begins, tracked by the stark eyes of a scruffy looking pup.

When you glance back, a grimy cat gives a runny-eyed squint, then turns her head away from you...


Hey. You are not a bad person. I do the exact same thing, and people I’ve spoken to about these commercials are in this same pool. Watching it all the way through, once, was plenty. I got the message. I’ve never lingered on one since.

Animal cruelty happens every day

We can change the channel, but animal cruelty happens every day, and knows no social or economic bounds. Keeping in mind that tons of cases go unreported, the Humane Society published some cold hard facts:

  • The animals whose abuse is most often reported are dogs, followed by cats, horses, and livestock.
  • Weak protections afforded to livestock under state cruelty laws mean only the most shocking cases are reported — few of which are ever prosecuted.
  • The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has prosecuted multiple cases where cartels were running narcotics through cockfighting/dogfighting operations.
  • The Humane Society even documented uniformed police officers at a cockfighting pit in Kentucky.
  • Surveys suggest that those who intentionally abuse animals are predominantly men under 30, while those involved in animal hoarding are more likely to be women over 60., a global movement of young people on a mission to bring positive changes to animals, has even more to share:

  • Over 115 million animals — mice, rats, dogs, cats, rabbits, monkeys, birds, and others — are killed in laboratory experiments worldwide for chemical, drug, food, and cosmetic testing each year… recently, a lab in Michigan was forced to stop its pesticide testing on Beagles after a lengthy investigation.
  • More than 50% of the fur in the U.S. comes from China, where millions of dogs and cats are regularly bled to death and skinned alive for their fur.  Because Chinese fur is often mislabeled, there’s no way of knowing whose skin you’re in, if you wear fur.
  • Thousands of greyhounds die each year — some in the name of “selective breeding” — before they ever touch paws to a racetrack. Many don’t even make it to the mere “retirement” age of 4 or 5… Florida has since banned greyhound racing, and the National Greyhound Association has been working with over 100 adoption groups to rehome an estimated 7,000 greyhounds.
  • It’s been estimated that there are 900 to 2,000 new cases each year of animal hoarding in the U.S., with 250,000 of them falling victim to appalling living conditions.

The Humane Society has also drawn correlations between animal abuse and domestic violence. One survey showed that 71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser targeted their pets, too. Another study of families who were under investigation for suspected child abuse showed that pet abuse had occurred in 88% of these families.

Woman on beach with Golden Retriever at sunset

There's some light in the darkness

Despite harrowing stats like these, there’s some light in the darkness:

In efforts to stop this ongoing pattern, the Humane Society Legislative Fund backed the Pets and Women’s Safety (PAWS) Act, introduced to congress in 2015. So many victims stay in abusive homes because they’re afraid for their pet’s life — sometimes more than their own. The PAWS Act gives them the means to get out of the situation and keep their companion animals safe.

As of today, all 50 states have laws on the books against animal cruelty...  but only on a state level. The Animal Legal Defense Fund published the 13th annual U.S. Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report... and for some states, it isn’t pretty:

US Map with color rankings best to worst (green to red)

Illinois and Oregon top the list with the strongest laws (and enforcement of such), while Mississippi and Kentucky sit dismally at the bottom. What’s worse, Kentucky is the only state that prohibits veterinarians from reporting suspected abuse!

Enter two lawmakers looking to make a change with a proposed bill that would make animal cruelty a federal felony.

Congressmen Vern Buchanan (Rep) and Ted Deutch (Dem) from Florida introduced the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. Following the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, passed in 2010 after a rash of “animal crush videos” went public, this bill will prohibit the actual acts of abuse themselves — video footage or not.

Buchanan said,

“The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me and I look forward to working with Congressman Deutch on this important issue.”

The National Sheriffs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and national animal welfare groups (including the Humane Society) have endorsed the bill.

If the PACT Act passes, authorities can go after offenders — even if they cross state lines — because they’ll have federal jurisdiction.

Brown dog, sad behind fence.

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? It can feel like there’s not much you can do on a smaller, local level, but vigilance and speaking up will go far. Remember: one life saved is exactly that — one life saved.

Physical signs you can look for include:

  • Open wounds or signs of several healed wounds.
  • Physical ailments going untreated.
  • Poor skin conditions, matted or patchy fur, rashes, etc.
  • Extreme emaciation where ribs and bones are visible, but remember that weight loss is common in older animals, so this isn’t always a sign of neglect.
  • Limping, difficulty standing/walking.
  • Untreated infestations of fleas or ticks.
  • Tight collars/chains that are embedded in the animal’s neck.

There are also environmental signs to look out for:

  • Tied up/chained/left outdoors for long periods of time, especially in extreme weather.
  • Living in a cramped cage/kennel with little room to move around or stand.
  • Multiple animals living in cramped housing/conditions; foul smells coming from the home or area in question.
  • Animals living outdoors in areas rife with garbage and feces.

If you see something suspicious, call your area animal control, humane shelters/rescues, or 911. Document the abuse the best you can. Note the times, dates, and take pictures or videos if possible. The more information and proof you can provide, the easier it will be for local officials to investigate.

Adopt a rescue

If you’ve got extra love to give and room in your home, you can also adopt a rescue! The ASPCA reports that approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters every year, showing an estimated decline from 7.2 million in 2011!

Every adoption makes a difference; here’s one story that’ll warm up your heart after everything you’ve just read:

Lauren Hartwell was struck by the sweet face of a 1.5 year old alleged Shih Tzu/Yorkie mix, named Gidget. The pup was rescued from a hoarder/breeder house in Ohio, who they were never able to get clear answers from regarding breed. A Massachusetts resident, she was visiting Pittsburgh at the time and realized this pup was just a 4-hour round trip from Happily Ever After.

With her college graduation only a couple weeks away, Lauren made the drive and took Gidget under her wing without hesitation.

Dark brown Shih-Tzu/Yorkie mix, pink collar, sitting pretty in recliner

“When she was first rescued, she was a giant mat,” Lauren said. “Her hair basically came off in one big piece. She was too scared of Outside to even stand outdoors. Once she trusted me, she got super needy. She still gets separation anxiety, so she’s on CBD oil for that.  She also HATES being brushed, since she was never acclimated to it as a pup.”

Gidget is about 11-years-old now, and since living with Lauren she’s become the sweetest, gentlest dog. “It was hard at first,” she admitted, “she’d pee on the bed a lot and couldn’t be left alone, but none of that was her fault.”

Now, Gidget has a pack of animal friends including dogs, cats, and chickens... lots of space, unlimited comforts, and tons of fashionable outfits!

The pretty clothes aren’t just for style, though. “I think they help her anxiety,” Lauren said. “If she’s naked and she sees us take out one of her sweaters, she gets so excited. She’s my neurotic little weirdo, and I love her so much!”

Gidget wearing a cute pink sweater, on couch with her cat-sibling, Olivia

This is just one of many happy endings rising up against the tides of animal abuse.

Allen Bloom, a late American philosopher, said:

“Education is the movement from darkness to light.”

If you can’t adopt an animal, you can fight the good fight by staying informed at local, state, and federal levels. You can keep a vigilant eye out on suspicious signs and behaviors, and make the call if you believe something isn’t right.

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