When it comes to animal cruelty, we would certainly all agree that dog fighting rings and animals neglectfully hoarded in inhumane conditions would top the list. A certain YouTuber has been in the news recently after she accidentally posted an unedited video which some say crossed the line. In it, the YouTuber pushes, hits, and even appears to spit on her Doberman Pincher.
However, after the Los Angeles Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Task Force looked into the matter and viewed the video, they determined it didn’t rise to the level of animal cruelty and that no crime was committed. That begs the questions then, was she unjustly reported on, and just what constitutes animal cruelty?
How Can I Tell if it’s Animal Abuse?
Animal cruelty can be broken down into two categories: active and passive. Active, intentional cruelty involves malicious intent, when the abuser deliberately causes harm to an animal. Thankfully, according to The Humane Society, this type of abuse happens less often than passive cruelty, which usually involves neglect or failure to act in behalf of an animal that needs basic care. This type of abuse, even if it’s unintentional, still causes extreme suffering for the animal.
Animals rely on us to be their voice and to report animal abuse, but what are the signs we should look out for? Pinellas County Animal Services (PCAS) provides this list of warning signs:
- Wounds – especially ones that have not been tended to or treated by a veterinarian
- Extremely thin or starved appearance
- Patches of missing hair
- Tick or flea infestations. If left untreated, this can lead to an animal’s death
Other actions considered signs of animal cruelty:
- An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
- Dogs that are repeatedly left alone without food and water, often chained up in a yard (Dogs who are tethered continuously suffer tremendously, both from social isolation and exposure to predators and the elements.)
- Dogs that are kept outside in extreme weather conditions without appropriate shelter
Those that saw the YouTuber’s video before she removed it can hardly be faulted for reporting what they saw, as the signs for physical violence were there. Additional signs to watch for are severe matting and a coat that is filthy, the animal’s living area covered in feces, or an animal left behind in a vacant building or yard after the owners’ move. Reports of pets abandoned in this way are alarmingly common. Leaving a pet in a parked car is also considered animal abuse, and Florida is one of a few states that allows bystanders to rescue pets by breaking into the locked car, provided they 1) call 911 first, 2) break into the car using the minimum amount of force needed to save the animal, and 3) stay with the animal until law enforcement arrives.
Penalty for Animal Abusers
Every state has laws prohibiting animal cruelty; in Florida the penalty can be fines of thousands of dollars, having to undergo psychological counseling or complete an anger management treatment program, or even incarceration. But laws only help when they are enforced, so it’s important to report any suspicions we may have, and document what you see with dates, times, and as many details as you can. If it is safe to do so and will not bring you in harm’s way, cell phone video or photographs can help the appropriate authorities to investigate possible cruelty.
Providing Help for the Helpless
If you see someone actively beating or physically attacking an animal, it’s crucial to involve law enforcement quickly by contacting PCAS at (727) 582-2600, or dialing 911, as the situation calls for. You can also e-mail Animal Services. They allow you to provide anonymous information, but any e-mails are subject to the public records laws of Florida.
Pinellas County has 15 animal control officers that work in the field, with 8-10 officers on the road on any given day, except Sundays. Sundays and after hours they have one officer on call for emergencies. As you can imagine, these officers stay very busy as the animal population vastly outnumbers the human population.
PCAS urges us to set a good example for others and to always show our pets the love and care they deserve. “Taking care of a pet is more than just providing food, water, and adequate shelter. If you think your animal is sick, bring him to the veterinarian. Be responsible and have your animals spayed or neutered, licensed, and vaccinated.” (PCAS) We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!
We would like to add that violence towards animals is often part of a larger pattern of violence that can include people as well, so it may not just be an animal you’re saving when you report abuse.