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Dog Tip: Helping Abused Animals and Stopping Cruelty

You can make all the difference in the world for animals who suffer from cruelty and neglect.

"It is unfortunate that many people who witness or hear about acts of animal cruelty are unaware that legal action can be taken to help stop the problem," says Dr. Larry Hawk, ASPCA President and CEO. "Education and activism are the keys to solving this battle."

Here is advice from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), www.HelpingAnimals.com, www.DogsDeserveBetter.com and the April 2001 Healthy Planet article "The Violence Link" by Brenda Schoss.

* If you witness or hear about animal cruelty taking place -- neighborhood children torturing cats, blood sports such as dog fighting, companion animals being denied food, water and shelter -- report it to your local humane organization, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA), your county or city animal control agency, or your local police. See details that follow.

* If a child who is hurting animals, notify the parents, guardians or teacher immediately. Remember, when family pets are being mistreated, it is usually found that children or other human family members are being abused as well.

* If you know of a dog kept chained up outdoors, you can make a difference. Being chained up creates extreme frustration, stress and fear. It confines the dog near his bodily waste and subjects the animal to taunting and physical abuse by passersby.

The following includes information from www.HelpingAnimals.com, the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), www.DogsDeserveBetter.com and the April 2001 Healthy Planet article "The Violence Link" by Brenda Schoss.

1. Educate the owner.

Often, people learn cruel and neglectful behavior from parents or neighbors, and we can break the cycle of ignorance. In a non-confrontational way, let the person know specifically what the problems are and better alternatives. You can give the neighbor helpful dog care tips on websites, including:

Chaining alternatives brochure

Educational information in English and Spanish

Details about the effects of chaining

If the owner keeps the dog outside in a yard, or on a chain or in a pen, explain that a better alternative is to keep dogs as indoor animals, and that this will result in a healthier, better behaved, better socialized and trustworthy companion. Encourage the owner to teach the dog good house manners. Until a dog can be trusted in a larger area of the home, the owner can confine the dog to a puppy-proofed room. Using a crate in the process of housetraining is also effective, but behaviorists advise not to crate a dog day after day for more than 6 hours a day. The crate is a tool for use during the housetraining process, not a substitute for teaching the dog good behavior. Teaching good behavior is the responsibility of every dog owner.

2. Check your local laws.

In most states, causing an animal unnecessary suffering is illegal, as is beating an animal and depriving him of food. However, the law usually allows people to keep dogs outdoors if certain conditions are met, such as providing shelter from rain.

Available at your local library, your state statute and county code will explain requirements and restrictions pertaining to animal owners. It is a good idea to make a photocopy to carry with you. You can also find state anti-cruelty statutes at http://www.lawsource.com and city statutes at http://www.municode.com.

You can also get facts from the Law Enforcement Training Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia. This national program educates animal cruelty investigators on state statutes, interrogation methods, rules of evidence, and courtroom testimony. Contact: National Cruelty Investigations School, Law Enforcement Training Institute, 321 Hearnes Center, Columbia, MO 65211. 800-825-6505. http://www.missouri.edu/~letiwww/

3. Help the dog directly.

If the dog's owners are not receptive to your suggestions, but the situation is not illegal, there are still ways you can help the dog. Offer to take the dog for walks. Say that you had some extra dog toys, a sturdy water bucket, running line and swivel to prevent tangling, and rather than throw them out, and that you would like their dog to have them.

Make sure the dog has shade and water in an anchored bucket or a heavy bowl. Watch for symptoms of overheating, such as restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, darkened tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting and lack of coordination. If the dog displays any of these symptoms, get him to shade immediately and call a veterinarian. To lower body temperature gradually, provide water to drink, apply a cold towel or an ice pack to the head, neck and chest, or immersing the dog in tepid (not cold) water.

Cold weather can lead to frostbite, exposure and dehydration when water sources freeze. If you cannot convince the owner to take the dog inside, you might offer to build him or her a warm, durable doghouse (however, PAW does not advocate use of dog houses). Remind the owner to increase food during winter since more calories are being burned to keep warm, and to be sure that animals are free of internal parasites, which rob them of vital nutrients.

Try to visit the dog regularly. Many dogs have had their whole lives gradually changed because of patient and friendly intervention. If you gain custody of the dog, find detailed steps to help you rehome the dog at http://www.helpinganimals.com/angel-bydpack.html

4. Get help from your local humane society or SPCA.

An investigator from your local humane society or SPCA might be able to persuade the owner to improve care of the animal. Also, humane society and SPCA personnel typically can confirm whether and how an owner might be violating the law.

5. If the uncooperative owner appears to be violating a code or law, contact your local animal control department.

It is the department's job to take action when any law is being violated. Know your local and state codes, as discussed in part 2 above. You need to be prepared to educate law enforcers who may not be totally familiar with anti-cruelty laws. Make clear that you want action taken and will assist as needed. Be persistent; sometimes it takes several calls and follow up.

To find a Humane Law Enforcement Agency near you, check your phonebook or go to http://www.aspca.org/site/FrameSet?style=Animal

If the officers do not cooperate, present your documented case to their supervisors and, if necessary, to local government officials, such as the county commissioner, and ask them to act. If you have witnessed the cruelty, you can go to the police commissioner and swear out a warrant to summon the accused person to court.

6. Gather and present evidence.

You will want to provide the law enforcement officer and other parties with a concise, written, factual statement of what you have observed.

* Gather evidence, including dates and approximate times. Photograph the situation and date photos. Try to get written statements from other witnesses. Keep copies of all documentation and photos.

* Keep a record of whom you contact, the contact dates, and the content and outcome of each discussion. Never give away a letter or document without making a copy for your file.

* Expert witnesses may be necessary to the case. A veterinarian can sign a statement that it is his or her "expert opinion" that a dog suffers if swung by a chain, deprived of food, etc. Expert opinions often make or break a case.

7. Contact the media.

If more pressure is needed, try to interest local TV and newspaper reporters in the story. Your documentation of the case will help. Encourage witnesses to step forward. News stories usually compel officials to act or prompt the person causing the abuse to stop.

8. Seek help from national specialists in animal abuse litigation.

For example, the nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund works to convict animal abusers with maximum penalties. ALDF's Zero Tolerance For Cruelty campaign supplies free legal research, amicus curiae briefs, and expert witnesses for local prosecutors. For help in supporting a case, contact Animal Legal Defense Fund, 2103 SE Belmont Street, Portland, OR 97214-2814; 503-231-1602 or 800-555-6517, http://www.aldf.org

Other contacts include the PETA Domestic Animal Issues and Abuse Department, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510, 757-622-7382, info@PETA.org and the Humane Society of the United States, http://www.hsus.org/ace/13858

9. Urge local legislators to pass better animal anti-cruelty laws.

Animal welfare legislation pending in your state and how you can help

Anti-cruelty laws, legislative contact details and related information http://www.hsus.org/ace/11589

Laws, Legislation, Model Legislation, Guidance, Working with Legislators

Sample chaining ordinances

To help pass humane laws, email the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade

10. Resources to help you help dogs in need:

Downloadable "Unchain a Dog" materials



Housetraining Dogs and Teaching Dogs Good House Manners: for detailed tipsheets on these and related topics, go to the Dog Tips index


For more Dog Tips and other information about pet
care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our
website at:  www.paw-rescue.org

Partnership for Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport