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How to identify cruelty to animals

FOUR PAWS explains what to look for

Cruelty to animals can take many different forms. These range from suffering caused by the way a pet is kept to acts of violence such as hitting or kicking.

Looking out for the physical, psychological and environmental signs can help to identify animal cruelty.

Physical signs

Physical signs of cruelty are mostly obvious.

  • Other signs of physical abuse
  • Visible lack of upkeep (matted fur, overlong nails, etc.)
  • Hair loss, skin conditions, scabs
  • Injuries, open wounds, sores
  • Infection and disease
  • Infestation with parasites such as fleas, ticks and worms
  • Visible emaciation and malnutrition
  • Extreme weakness and generally poor physical condition

Psychological signs

The psychological signs of abuse are more difficult to identify, and close observation of the animal may be needed. 

Generally, abused animals are fearful of their owner, shy away from touch or become aggressive as a defence mechanism.

  • Confusion or drowsiness
  • Anxious or aggressive behaviour
  • Evasive behaviour

Environmental signs

In order to spot environmental signs of abuse, the place where the animal is housed needs to be viewed, including its rest area. Other external factors should also be considered. 

  • Inadequate shelter
  • Lack of fresh water and food
  • Lack of proper socialization and interaction (either with animals of the same species or with humans)
  • Signs of animal hoarding
  • Poor sanitation
  • Lack of veterinary treatment

Who detects signs of animal abuse should take initiative!

Sometimes a dialog with the owner of the animal is enough, but in some cases the responsible authorities need to be informed.