10 Animal Cruelty Facts in the USA you Should Know (2021)

by Becky

July 28, 2021

When most people think of animal cruelty in the United States they imagine either a cat or dog being harmed but in reality animal abuse can happen to any type of animals that suffers or are harmed at the hand of humans.

Animal cruelty in the U.S. can take many forms. Whether it is puppy mills who try to breed as many puppies as possible, purchasing exotic animals, or purposely hurting and beating animals, many animals are harmed and killed each year.

Let’s take a close look at animal cruelty and learn a little bit more about the different types of animal cruelty specific to the United States, why it is likely to happen, and some of the steps you can take to help limit animal cruelty.

Most Animal Abuse Happens for Selfish Reasons

It is normal to wonder why someone would want to be cruel to the animals. When seeing pictures of animals that are starved, beaten, or left outside in the cold – you may wonder how something so heinous could happen to begin with.

The most common reasons for animal abuse include:

  • To shock, threaten, intimidate, or offend others
  • To take anger out on the animal rather than on a person
  • To earn money such as with dog fights or puppy mills
  • Mimicry behavior.  If someone sees others act like this, especially their parents, they don’t question the immorality of their actions. 
  • Ignorance. Without understanding, some people genuinely believe they are helping by hoarding animals under one roof.

Unfortunately, these situations often lead to aggressive and defensive animals that may not survive their inhumane conditions.

Something important to note is that animal abuse does not necessarily come from a particular type of person – the route cause for this issue is so broad. This has major implications on how we tackle the problem, both at a societal and individual level.

Did you know animal abusers are often guilty of other crimes?

Cruelty and neglect to these animals can cross all economic and social boundaries. But often, intentional cruelty is connected with other crimes, including violence against others. Around 88% of families that report child abuse also report some form of animal cruelty.

However, even someone who hoards animals is usually under various health and safety violations, never mind the victimization of each animal in that environment.

It seems that those who intentionally abuse animals are more likely to be men who are under the age of 30. However, those who are involved more in hoarding are women who are over 60, especially those who may have lost a spouse.

Convicted Animal Abusers Are Prohibited from Owning Pets

The penalty for animal cruelty differs by state and depends on how bad the situation is and where the case takes place. If a case is severe, a person could even be imprisoned for their acts (as they should).  

Some other types of sentencing include:

  • Prohibiting the care of and owning animals
  • Placement in a diversion program
  • Community service
  • Family or individual counseling
  • Prison

If someone is arrested for animal cruelty – it is often part of a very large problem that expends psychologically, environmentally, and socially. In other words, it can be more of a side effect that needs to be looked into. This is why counseling is often recommended as well.

For many, this is often the first chance they have to get the help they need for deep problems they experience in their life. However, there is never a good reason to abuse an animal, part of stopping the issue is extending a helping hand to our fellow humans.

The Most Common Form of Cruelty is Neglect

Animal neglect is a form of animal cruelty as well.

While it may not include intentional harm, it could be an intentional act. With neglect, the animal owner does not provide the right care to the animal to help them survive.

This could include a lack of:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Veterinary care

Like any living being, a pet will suffer from neglect, whether the acts are intentional or not. When neglect happens for an extended period, it compromises an animal's health and can even cause death.

According to most animal control agencies throughout the country, animal neglect is one of the most common calls they receive. So, if you’re wondering whether it’s cruel to leave your dog in a crate, find out here: Are Dog Crates Cruel?

There Are Many Laws Protecting Animals from Neglect

In the U.S., there are, luckily, many laws protecting animals against neglect and cruelty. When it comes to neglect, a person will be prosecuted depending on how difficult the situation is. Some things that determine this include:

  • How long the animal went without food or water
  • How long they have been out in extreme hot or cold weather
  • Whether they needed veterinarian care or not

Each state can handle this differently, so it will depend on the area and what the local laws are concerning this.

Animal Hoarding Is Often Not Recognized as Abuse

Hoarding is a form of abuse that many animals deal with. Often, hoarding is a sign of deeper psychological issues faced by the person responsible, especially since they may think that they are providing food and shelter to these animals – when in fact, they are cruel by limiting their space and access to resources.

There are different reasons why people choose to hoard animals. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Depression
  • Delusional thinking
  • Paranoia
  • Attachment disorders

It is not uncommon for someone to begin hoarding animals after they experience a traumatic event or loss. Many hoarders feel that they are animal “rescuers.” So, they continue doing it while being blind to the harm they cause in the process.

They are also good at garnering sympathy from others and convince them that the problem is not that big of a deal.

But the bottom line is that hoarding leaves the animals in poor health. They do not receive adequate care, and many are not fed or given enough water. Often, they live in cramped quarters and easily share diseases.

If the animal hoarder is also prone to hoarding other items – it makes the situation worse.

Almost any animal can be subjected to this, but the most common animals to become objects of a hoarder’s obsession are dogs, cats, and birds.

Cats are the most common type, though they are easier to take in from the streets. By the time someone catches on to the fact that their neighbor is hoarding animals – the situation is really out of hand and hard to work with.

Sixty-Five Percent of All Animal Cruelty Happens to Dogs

Up to 65% of all animal cruelty happens to dogs. Isn’t that scary? Man’s best friend has been by our side for thousands of years, but not all owners choose to treat them like sentient, special beings.

It is common for both:

  • Violence to be inflicted directly to the dog, and
  • Dogs to be used in harmful situations, such as paid-for dogfighting.

So, how do people turn man’s best friend into displaying violent and aggressive behavior? By inflicting that same behavior onto them.

When dogs are not given the love and attention they need and are treated badly, ­– it is common for them to get to start lashing out as a form of self-defense.

Puppy Mills Are One of the Worst Offenders

Puppy mills are another issue to be well aware of as it they are often businesses that care about their profit margins over their animals’ health and wellbeing.

Often, the animals themselves take a backseat to the bucket loads of cash a breeder can make from selling a popular breed. Unlike a reputable dog breeder, puppy mills do not worry about the genetics of the dog or anything else that could pertain to their health.

Several issues can show up with puppy mills, including:

  • The mother is bred too often, which is very stressful on her body.
  • The puppies are not cared for and often have various ailments when they are sold, specifically worms and mange.
  • Genetics are not considered, so more abnormalities show up, such as bad hips and knees.

When the end goal is money, all costs are cut as much as possible in puppy mills – including their living conditions. Puppy mills are usually extremely dirty and cramped. Dogs live in small crates and are not taken out very often.

It’s common to see these animals get very sick, riddled with infections that spread quickly and often, suffer from many behavioral problems. Wouldn’t you be aggressive if you never knew when your next meal was coming, or who you’d have to fight for it?

It is essential to boycott puppy mills and breeders alike at all costs to assist with the problem. The expression, “Adopt – don’t shop!” goes a long way for a reason.

Keep in mind, of course, that these establishments are completely different from reputable breeders. You can get a purebred there if you do your research.

Reputable breeders care for their dogs, and the parents are often part of their own family. They will ensure they meet the American Dog Breed Association (ADBA) requirements:

  • The mother is not overbred and only has puppies when it is healthy for them
  • The puppies are not passing on bad genetic material
  • The puppies have a lot of space to run around and play
  • The puppies have their vaccines

When choosing a breeder, always do as much research as possible. You can start by checking out if they are registered by ADBA (American Dog Breed Association) and asking if you can come and see the premises and the puppy’s parents.

Just keep in mind that many dogs need homes already, so adoption will make a huge difference if you can go that route first.

Dog Fighting Is Still Prevalent in Some Communities

Dogfighting is an extremely dangerous and illegal sport. Although it was once seen as a big source of entertainment, it just ends up harming the dog in the process as they are abused, starved, and dehydrated before being forced to fight against one another.

Dogfighting is often done to the death too of one or both of the animals. The owners do not care as much because they will just find another dog to fight later; they are happy as long as they win.

There are many ways that the dog can be harmed because of dogfighting, and not just from the actual violence in the ring.

For example:

  • Starving the dog or depriving it of water, either due to poor care or sometimes to make them meaner and more aggressive.
  • Beating the dogs, sometimes with electric prods, again to rile them up and make them more hostile.
  • Neglecting the dog by keeping it in poor kennel conditions, with a lack of vaccines and general healthcare.

No dogfighting of any nature should EVER be supported. And if you suspect that dog fights are going on in your area, it is a good idea to contact the local authorities to see what the legal options are to protect these dogs.

There Is a Thriving Exotic Animal Trade

Are tigers pretty? Yes.
Does that mean they should be your pet? Absolutely not!

Yes, an exotic pet is a status symbol, something you can show off and get attention from. But for the most part, these animals are not taken care of properly because they are not pets.

Exotic or wild animals will never be a companion at your side, and keeping them in small, captive spaces is cruel. To a certain degree, you will never be able to tame them either because they are not meant to be in your home enclosure. Not even zoos are all that ethical!

When it comes to capturing and breeding exotic animals – it is all about making as much money as possible. Just like the puppy mills, the conditions for capturing and breeding these animals are horrible as well. Not to mention there is a whole list of wild animals that are illegal to have in the states.

Here are some of the issues faced with the trade: 

  • It is impossible to know if the exotic animal was caught wild or captive-bred.
  • The animals can never go back to their homes and thrive (where they should be).
  • Over-catching can harm wild populations, endangering an entire species.
  • Exotic animals do not do well in a captive environment, have never done well in captive environments, and are not domesticated.
  • Breeding is rarely well-regulated and is often illegal.

Keeping these animals in your home rather than letting them go around their own native lands is cruel. They will never adjust to your home but can also never go back. While it is against the law to own certain species as pets, it is hard to regulate this kind of trade.

Those who capture these animals are often more worried about making money rather than anything else. This makes the trip to America dangerous and stressful. Many are not in good shape when they are ready to sell.

Many animals die during commutes because they are just not equipped to handle it. You’ll see this often in circuses too.

Those who decide to keep these animals as pets are harming them as well. It is cruel to keep a wild animal locked up in a cage, especially in a foreign country with an environment it isn’t built for.

Here are some ways that you can make sure you can help with preventing the exotic pet trade include:

  • Do not support any pet shop that sells these animals.
  • Do not purchase an exotic animal.
  • Let others know about how cruel this practice is.
  • Report any incidents you see. For example, if someone you know shows up with a wild bird species, inquire about how they got that animal to begin with. Even purchasing exotic bird feathers is illegal ­– so please report that too!

Rodeos Are a Commonly Accepted Form of Animal Abuse in the U.S.

Rodeos may seem like they are a lot of fun to watch. Families have taken their kids to watch some of these for years, but they are considered cruel when you first learn what happens during them.

We’re going to do a mini-breakdown on why rodeos are so clearly abusive - yet are enjoyed by a broad attendance of Americans every year.

The Stunts Harm the Animals

Most of the stunts promoted at the rodeo will be dangerous to the animals. Some are tamer than others, but they force the animal to behave in a way that is not natural and can cause injuries. The stunts that are dangerous include:

  • Calf roping
  • Bareback bull and horse riding
  • Steer wrestling
  • Steer roping
  • Saddle bronc riding

In any event that you see at the rodeo, the animal is a captive performer. They will often receive harsh treatment, either during the event or in the events leading up to the event. In many cases, they will be provoked to display the wild behaviors customers want to see.

The Tools Are Abusive

Sometimes the tools that are used during a rodeo can be the thing that is cruel to animals. Some of the different tools that are used include:

  • Bucking straps
  • Sharpened spurs
  • Electric prods

All of these are used to irritate the animal and can make them very angry. They may try to buck around to be free of the device. In the process, they may even develop back problems or break a tendon.

Animal Injuries and Deaths at Rodeos Are Common

It’s fairly common for animal deaths to happen during the rodeo too. While we often focus on how cowboys and human participants get harmed, we forget how hard it is on animals.

Another country that is notorious for ill treatment of animals in sport is Spain. In many ways, bull fighting is far worse than the rodeo and needs to be stopped.

There are penalties in place against harming the animals, but the agencies responsible for watching are ineffective, and the fines are pretty low. If you want the full scoop on why rodeos are so dangerous, you can find out more here: How Are Rodeos Cruel to Animals?

Luckily not all animal-based sports are bad for these creatures. If you enjoy things like barrel racing, falconry or even husky sledding – you can find cruelty-free options.

Understanding Animal Cruelty in the U.S.

While most of us love our household pets and feel that they are part of the family, there are many instances in the United States where animals can be harmed, and animal cruelty is a major problem that animals of all types will face.

Another area of concern that needs your attention is animal testing in the U.S.  Unlike Canada, UK or EU, the U.S has not banned animal testing on cosmetics yet. So, your cosmetics could still be tested on animals. It’s important to do your researchand choose cruelty-free brands.

Beyond that, the U.S. government is responsible for sponsoring billions of dollars per year on animal testing. Primates are still being used in biodefense labs to test against biological weapons.

As you can see, the different levels at which animal cruelty is inflicted are vast. So, it’s really important to understanding what type of animal cruelty is going on and how you can stop the issue will help you save these animals and stop animal cruelty in the first place.

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