BY: RHIANN MOORE
Animal abuse can be a complex issue, particularly for those who have had little experience as an animal owner. While the idea of reporting abuse is intimidating, it’s crucial to take the necessary steps when you believe an animal is being hurt. It’s entirely plausible that you are the only who’s noticed the neglect and abuse being placed upon the animal so it’s worth speaking up if it means saving a life.
If you suspect someone of abusing their animal, but aren’t sure, it’s worth doing an initial bit of research. After all it doesn’t hurt to be prepared in case the definitive proof presents itself in a hurry. Look up the local agency responsible for enforcing anti-cruelty laws in your area – in Toronto that’s the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (aka the SPCA). You can also take some time to get familiar with the local laws (here’s Canada’s) when it comes to animal cruelty where you are. This way if you have to have a confrontation or if you have to speak to the police you know what’s most important to disclose.
The next step is to start playing Nancy Drew and gather evidence. Begin making notes of specific incidences – date, location, and time. If you won’t be endangered, it’s worth taking pictures and videos that you can give to the police. Also be sure to look out for other witnesses who would be able to back up your story. Once you’ve started reporting the incidents, authorities may not come running unless it’s critical. That means you have to follow-up (sometimes you have to follow up a lot). They should eventually arrive to inspect the animal to see if they are unhealthy or injured in any way. From there they will search the home for further indications of abuse. Once they have found what they need they will issue a warning and remove the animal.
Ideally this all happens in a timely manner. However, your persistence will play a massively necessary role in saving the animals life. If you aren’t getting anywhere with the legal authorities, there is no problem with reporting incidents to the media – especially if you have proof. News coverage works well to force the hand of officials and scare the abuser.
The signs to look for when you’re suspicious are tight collars around the neck, open wounds, hair loss, rashes, extreme thinness, fleas, matted fear, weakness, heavy discharge from eyes or nose and finally and most obviously an act of physical abuse you witness. Also be aware if an animal is tied up for an extremely long time without water, in littered in environments or in a too small cage. If you see any of these signs of abuse take note and don’t be afraid to contact local authorities! You could be the difference between life or death for the abused.