Animal abuse is an ongoing problem with many facets. Abusers don’t always mistreat pets out of cruelty or because they feel entitled to hurt creatures they consider beneath them. From those who horde animals like other people horde old magazines, to people who deliberately abuse pets to control their spouses or significant others, the abuse of animals is a wide-ranging problem that can occur in even the most enlightened societies.
What Makes People Abuse Animals?
Why do people abuse animals? In some cases, the reason is simple ignorance. Newspapers are filled with stories of people who adopted more pets than they could care for and ended up having them removed for terrible neglect.
In other cases, the reasons are financial – farmers or ranchers want their animals to produce monetary gains and because they see them only as commodities, the treatment of livestock in the name of efficiency can be shocking. Many animal rights activists got their start by discovering the truth behind the local pig farm that shoved animals into tiny cages, or the puppy mill that fed their creatures such minimal amounts of food that more died than were sold.
But there are also more insidious reasons. Work animals have been used for centuries to assist people with various tasks. Horses have been used to herd cattle, dogs have been used to herd sheep. In many cases, these animals were well-treated and become an integral part of the family or farm or ranch circle. They were necessary to the survival of the society and were treated as such.
But in some cases, animals are used strictly for entertainment value. Circus animal abuse has been an ongoing problem in many countries. Animals performers are often mistreated and trained through a system of physical abuse. They are loaded into small pens or trains, ignored for many months of the year and dragged from place to place under harsh conditions.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) believes that abused circus animals can actually represent a threat to audience members. Animals so badly abused by their trainers could turn on them or on the audience.
In their position statement, the ASPCA says that circus animals should not be allowed to perform at all. “Because of the stress, cruelty and physical, social and psychological deprivations that the animals inevitably suffer, many as a direct result of extended confinement and being on the road much of the year”, the ASPCA would like to see the performances of circus animals completely eliminated.
And of course, there are people who abuse animals because they don’t see animals as having any function or purpose other than for their pleasure. In some cases they assume that animals are a lower form of life and can be treated with disrespect. In many cases, these abusers began abusing animals as children. Sometimes they themselves have been abused and take out their aggression on pets.
According to Psychology Today, research has shown a direct connection between childhood animal abuse and future delinquency and criminal behavior. Though some experimentation is not unusual, it’s important for parents to teach their children to respect animals. When an adult sees a young child “picking on” a pet, they need to intervene and point out that this behavior is inappropriate.
But if an older child who should know better abuses an animal, it’s possible they may be acting out about abuse they are experiencing in their own lives. In this case, it’s important to get professional help. And this is especially true if a teenager, who should know better, is abusing animals. Get help from professional resources immediately. This could be a sign of severe antisocial behavior.
- One of the best places to find animal abuse statistics is the website of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They have evaluated abuse cases on the basis of animal types, and provide information about how you can help prevent cruelty to animals. They also offer news stories about animal abuse, from information about specific laws passed to protect animals to stories about research that could benefit various animals and improve their comfort levels and even their survival.
The website provides tools to help you understand various animals better, everything from your favorite kitten to the guinea pig your kid brought home from school. But information about Farm Animals and Wildlife is included.
Check out the HSUS for information about animal rescue and care. They also include specific information about animal shelters, spay/neuter initiatives and animal advocacy on their Web site.
- The motto of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is “We fight for animals.” This site includes information about how organizations can apply for animal welfare grants, and how kids can volunteer to help shelter pets. The site also contains articles about animals who have been rescued and found their perfect “forever homes.”
The site also lists upcoming legislation to protect animals. For instance, they advocate ending horse carriage rides in New York City. But they also list ways to help your children enjoy their pets, and they include a large section on pet care tips. They even have opportunities to adopt specific animals listed on their site.
- The organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), was established to stop animal abuse. Though their methods can sometimes seem radical, PETA members swear that their goal is for the common good of all, and their motto sums this up, “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way.” Their website contains numerous animal abuse articles.
Some of PETA’s campaigns and policies have been very controversial.For instance, they used scantily clad women to protest the use of animals for fur coats, and were accused of sexism by feminists.They also do not believe in the “No Kill Policy” advocated by many shelters.They don’t want feral animals or those who are sick to be able to expose healthy animals to various diseases. PETA has been critical of television wildlife conservation personalities who they say invade the territories of and disturb the very creatures they say they are trying to save.
But PETA members have accomplished some significant improvements in animal rights. They have been known to send representatives under cover to investigate laboratory animal research practices.Many of these investigations have resulted in fines and prosecutions against animal abusers who use the cover of research to mistreat their subjects.
- The Paws website has extensive information about how to help children learn about abused animals. They explain to kids that there are three important things to know when they see an abusive situation:
- Never touch the abused animal,
- Find an adult to help, and
- Have that adult call 9-1-1 or, if the situation is not an emergency, animal control.
- The website Do Something encourages young people to help initiate change in various aspects of their lives, one of which is animal abuse. They have a list of 11 facts about animal abuse that can motivate youth to get involved in stopping such practices. The site also contains links to various sites that can help animals in trouble, and a link to the Meatless Mondays program that encourages schools to provide a Meatless Monday lunch every week.
- Not surprisingly, animal abuse and domestic abuse can often be directly correlated. The American Humane Association has an extensive list of such connections on their web site . Some of the problems the AHA found include batterers who abuse pets in order to frighten their victims into silence, and women who are afraid to leave their homes because they don’t want to leave their pets behind.
Because pets can be such a comfort to their human owners, the site recommends ways to help those suffering from domestic abuse keep their pets and still escape from their abusive relationships.
Animal Abuse: How to Stop It
As the world population continues to grow, the worldwide abuse of animals has reached epidemic proportions. Animal abuse can extend from the most individual examples to those that have global proportions. Time Magazine recently posted a list of ten animal species facing extinction. The reasons given for the loss of these species includes logging, poaching, deforestation and loss of wetlands, all explanations that constitute animal abuse on a huge scale.
Animal abuse facts tend to be so horrifying that even the most kind-hearted people find themselves unwilling to discover the truth about the foods they eat or the pets they adore. But it is important that animal abuse stories be circulated in order for such horrors to be prevented. Knowledge is key in preventing the abuse of our fellow creatures, the destruction of their habitats, and the decline of their species.