So, you want to make a difference for animals in your community, but aren’t sure where to start? Well, ASPCA experts agree that one of the most important things you can do is learn how to recognize and report animal cruelty.
“Without tips from the public, many animals would remain in abusive circumstances, unable to defend themselves,” says ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Supervisory Special Investigator and star of Animal Planet’s Animal Precinct, Annemarie Lucas. “We commend the brave and swift actions of concerned citizens who report cruelty.”
Whether you’ve seen the dog next door outside without proper shelter or witnessed the physical abuse of a neighborhood cat, you can help. To lend a hand, our experts have created an easy step-by-step guide to help you recognize and report animal cruelty.
If I report my neighbor for committing animal cruelty, and that person’s animal is taken away and put in a shelter, isn’t the animal worse off? It’s important to understand that reporting cruelty is always the right thing to do. Animal control officers never remove an animal from the home unless absolutely necessary. A seized animal will then have the chance to get much-needed veterinary and behavior care.
Can I remain anonymous when I file an animal cruelty complaint? Yes, and it is better to file an anonymous report than to do nothing—but please consider providing your information. Agencies have limited resources, and the case is more likely to be pursued when there are credible witnesses willing to stand behind the report and, if necessary, testify in court.
On March 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is taking a series of steps to increase the safety of spot-on flea and tick treatments for cats and dogs. Last summer, the EPA, which regulates topical pet treatments, reported a 50% increase in the number of adverse incident reports from the use of flea and tick products. As a result, the agency is reviewing current labels—ensuring that instructions are clear—and developing stronger evaluation procedures for existing and new products.
According to the EPA's press release, the agency's new protocol includes:
Requiring manufacturers of spot-on pesticides to improve labeling, making instructions clearer to prevent product misuse.
Requiring more precise label instructions to ensure proper dosage per pet weight.
Requiring clear markings to differentiate between dog and cat products, and disallowing similar brand names for dog and cat products.
Requiring additional changes for specific products, as needed, based on product-specific evaluations.
Launching a consumer information campaign to explain new label directions and to help users avoid making medication errors.
"The ASPCA supports the EPA's focus on clear labeling to distinguish dog products from cat products," says Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA veterinary toxicologist and Senior Vice President Animal Health Services. "This alone could save cats' lives. Improving the precision of the amount applied will also increase the margin of safety for very small pets."
Dr. Hansen adds: "Post-marketing surveillance and public education will also help, but veterinary advice is still key when using these products on old, debilitated, sick or pregnant pets."
Fleas cause anemia (low red blood cell count), carry tapeworms, and can transmit infections such as Bartonella; ticks also transmit many diseases, including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. For more information about flea and tick prevention this spring, please visit our pet care pages online.
There is a new victim of the shadowy world of animal fighting—the Saffron Finch. This small yellow songbird is the latest species to be fought in what is often a battle to the death. In nature, the 6-inch songbirds, indigenous to parts of South America, become very aggressive during mating. These fights, however, are often short-lived, as the birds have the option to fly away. In organized finch fights, the bird's natural instincts are exaggerated. Two male birds are placed in cages specifically built to promote competition—a female finch is suspended in a small box that hangs from the top of the cage. In many cases, the fighting birds will also have their bills sharpened to fine points or wear special blades to ensure maximum damage.
"I understand it sounds odd," says Tim Rickey, the ASPCA Director of Field Investigations. "But cruelty is cruelty, and the suffering that's part of this practice is horrible."
Besides being cruel to animals, finch fighting is closely connected to other crimes such as gambling, drugs and acts of violence. "The individuals who enjoy this kind of brutality, who attend these fights should be regarded as very dangerous," Rickey says. "They're the same type of people who enjoy dog fighting and rooster fighting."
Also known as canary fighting, this blood sport was prevalent in Brazil until it was banned two decades ago—but that hasn't stopped it from coming to America. Over the past several months, authorities have busted two finch fighting operations on the East Coast. Last June, 19 men were arrested and 150 birds seized in a Connecticut bust. And just last month, more than 20 finches were seized in a Massachusetts raid, where an investigation is ongoing.
"There's more of this going on than people know," says Rickey. "Finches are much cheaper to raise, they're quieter, and they're easier to transport and secret away. Trends like this, once they kick off, don't take much time to catch on."
When a tip came in about the suspected abuse of a Bulldog pup named Spike, our Humane Law Enforcement Department took immediate action. Working hard to make New York City a safer place for its four-legged inhabitants, our Agents often rely on the brave and swift actions of concerned citizens who report acts of animal cruelty.
On Monday, the ASPCA announced the Million Dollar Rescuing Racers Initiative to help rescue retired racehorses from neglect, abuse and slaughter. The two-to-three year initiative, which was made possible by a generous donor, involves six equine rescue groups and sanctuaries that have accepted the challenge of saving more thoroughbreds than ever before.
While healthy, well cared-for horses live an average of 18 to 25 years (and often much longer), a racing horse’s career generally lasts only one or two years. “Racing thoroughbreds rarely live out their final days in peace and comfort when their careers are over,” says ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres. “Too often, they end up at auctions—or worse, are sent to foreign slaughterhouses where their lives come to brutal ends. These grants will give organizations devoted to equine rescue the ability to save more horses and further advance their missions.”
The six grant recipients are: California Equine Retirement Foundation in Winchester, CA; Old Friends in Georgetown, KY; MidAtlantic Horse Rescue in Chesapeake City, MD; Kentucky Equine Humane Center in Lexington, KY; Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation headquartered in Saratoga Springs, NY, with contracted housing in 14 states; and Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER) in East Lansing, MI, with chapters in eight states. These recipients will use the grants to expand direct intake programs, incorporate physical therapy/rehabilitation programs, renovate facilities to accommodate more horses, create voucher programs to increase adoptions, and implement training programs for thoroughbreds to prepare them for second careers.
“The ASPCA truly values each group’s steadfast efforts to promote equine welfare,” says Jacque Schultz, Senior Director of ASPCA Community Outreach. “The thoroughbred that has given his all on the racetrack deserves to live out his life free of pain, fear and suffering.” For more information about helping horses and preventing equine cruelty, please visit ASPCA.org.