If you love an animal, it can be unfathomable to imagine that anyone would be cruel to their pet. The unfortunate reality is that thousands of animals in the United States and hundreds in our community are subjected to harsh conditions, neglected and even gravely injured at the hands of their owners.
Injured, neglected and abused animals can be rehabilitated through careful veterinary care, attentive human affection and thoughtful training. At the Humane Society, we know how critical this work is from first-hand experience. Learning how to spot the signs of animal cruelty is the first step in saving a life. Here are several signs to recognize.
They appear physically unwell.
Some breeds of dogs and cats are slimmer than others. But when you see an animal that is malnourished, it is gravely apparent. Sunken in sides, highly visible ribs and a slumped posture can all be signs of abuse. When combined with other physical signs – like pronounced limping, visible wounds and welts, and bug infestations – it can be a clear indicator that an animal is in an unethical situation that is worth investigating.
Their environment is entirely outdoors and unkept.
The Humane Society advocates that animals should be kept indoors where conditions are stable and healthy. But, we also know that fully outdoor dogs and cats can be common in some communities around the country. Keeping an animal outdoors alone is not necessarily a sign of neglect or abuse, but in combination with other factors, it can point to mistreatment. Look for movement restriction – like a permanent tether or a small pen that restricts animal movement. Notice whether or not they’re regularly given fresh water and food. Take note of the conditions of the yard. On especially cold, hot or stormy days, is the animal brought indoors or given other forms of shelter to protect them from the elements? Is there a lot of debris or garbage present that could pose a threat to the animal? Finally, does the animal receive positive human interaction on a regular basis? All of these signs can point to neglect or abuse.
They exhibit abnormal behavior.
If you’re observing an animal from afar, it may be hard to note behavioral signs of physical abuse. But abuse isn’t confined to neighbors or people who live down the street from you. People you know well could be abusing or neglecting an animal that you interact with frequently. If you’re able to get close to an animal safely, there are a few key signs that point to abuse or neglect. Some dogs exhibit especially timid behavior, like tucking their tails, shying away from people or urinating when approached. Others might become more aggressive when their owner is around, snipping or growling at people when approached. Watch carefully for other signs of abuse or the way that the owner interacts with their animal. Like people, all dogs have different personalities, and some may be more timid or aggressive than others naturally. But abnormal behavior in combination with other signs can signify an unhealthy relationship.
There are too many animals on the property.
Notice a new dog or cat in the yard or on the porch every week? In addition to noticing a large animal presence on the property, is there a smell emanating from the house or yard that might be caused by unsanitary conditions? These could be signs of animal hoarding, which is dangerous to the health of the people and animals involved. Determining how many animals is too many and whether or not the situation is officially hoarding is something that should be left to mental health and law enforcement professionals. But, if your gut tells you that something is amiss, report it to your local animal abuse hotline. A simple wellness check from a trained officer could save innocent lives.
What to do if you suspect animal neglect, cruelty or abuse in Memphis.
The following information is pulled from the City of Memphis’ website, and should be followed if you live in the Memphis Metro area and suspect animal abuse.
If this is an emergency affecting the safety of a person, please call 911.
For all other calls about loose dogs, injured pets, animal cruelty, or dog bites, please call 901-545-COPS, the police non-emergency line. Memphis Animal Services’ calls for service are dispatched through MPD’s system. We will need to know the address where the animal is located as well as what your concern is.
Please note: Cats have the legal right to roam in the City of Memphis. It is for this reason that we do not respond to complaints about loose cats. Click here for more information on controlling the community cat population.
If you’d like to report a loose dog or animal cruelty in another jurisdiction, see below for who to contact in our area.
Shelby County (excluding Bartlett, Germantown, and Collierville)
Shelby County Rabies Control
Shelby County Rabies Officers bring pets picked up to Memphis Animal Services.
Bartlett Animal Control
Germantown Animal Shelter
Collierville Animal Services