Fight Cruelty

Cruelty Glossary

Animal Cruelty: Acts of violence or neglect perpetrated against animals are considered animal cruelty. Some examples are overt abuse, dog fighting and cockfighting, and denying a companion animal the basic necessities of care, such as food, water or shelter. Learn more about animal cruelty.

Animal Hoarding or Collecting: Obsessive/compulsive disorder in which individual keeps a large number of animals-sometimes more than 100-in his or her home, and neglects to care for the animals and the home environment; "collectors" are usually in extreme denial about the situation. Technically, hoarding can be considered a crime, as it is a form of neglect. Learn more about animal hoarding.

Animal Welfare Act: Act passed into law in 1966 that ensures that pets and animals used in research and for exhibition purposes are provided humane care and treatment. The act also assures the humane treatment of animals during transportation in commerce and outlaws the sale or use of animals who have been stolen. Learn more about the Animal Welfare Act and other laws that protect animals.

Backyard Breeder: Individual whose pet either gets bred by accident, or who breeds on purpose for a variety of reasons-a desire to make extra money, for example, or to let the children witness "the miracle of birth." The animals involved are usually not tested for genetic or health. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in puppy mills.

Battery Cage: A wire cage, measuring no more than sixteen inches wide, in which four or five hens are housed. These cages are lined up in rows and stacked several levels high on factory farms. This system of production has been outlawed by countries in the European Union. Learn more about the ASPCA's efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Branding: The practice of burning an identifying mark onto the body of an animal using an extremely hot iron stamp, or "brand" pressed hard into the animal's flesh for several seconds without anesthesia. Ranchers use brands to distinguish their cattle and hogs from those owned by others. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Broilers: Chickens raised for meat consumption on modern factory farms. These birds have been selected or bred so that their bodies grow very rapidly. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Bullhook: Tool commonly used in the training and management of elephants. According to accounts by several former Ringling Bros. employees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), elephants who perform in Ringling Bros. circuses are repeatedly beaten with sharp bullhooks. Learn more about our efforts to end circus cruelty.

Canned Hunts: The canned hunt is a practice in which hunters pay fees to shoot and kill exotic animals in a confined area from which they are unable to escape.

Charreadas (also Charrerias): Rodeos popular in Mexico and the American Southwest. Aspects of this sport—specifically, the two events known as colas (bull-tailing) and manganas (horse-tripping)—are considered by many to be extreme cruelty. Horse-tripping has been banned in California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Maine. Learn more about the ASPCA's position on rodeos.

Cockfighting: A blood sport in which two roosters specifically bred for aggressiveness are placed beak to beak in a small ring and encouraged to fight to the death. Learn more about cockfighting.

Crush Videos: "Crush" fetish videos (also called "squish" videos) generally depict a woman, often in stiletto heels, stepping on small animals such as rodents and kittens. Crush videos are typically sold over the Internet for anywhere between $20 to $300 a piece. A 1999 federal law aimed at ending the trade in these videos and prosecuting those who market them was overturned in 2008; this decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in April 2010.

Debeaking: A process that involves cutting through bone, cartilage and soft tissue with a blade to remove the top half and the bottom third of a chicken's, turkey's or duck's beak. This measure is taken to reduce the excessive feather pecking and cannibalism seen among stressed, overcrowded birds in factory farms. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Declawing: The act of surgically amputating the entire distal phalanx, or end bone, of an animal's toes. The surgery is non-reversible, and the animal suffers significant pain during recovery. Declawing has been outlawed in many countries in Europe.

Downers: Animals headed for slaughter who become too sick or injured to walk unassisted. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Ear Cropping: The cropping of a purebred dog's ears to conform to a breed standard. Although this unnecessary cosmetic surgery is regularly performed by some veterinarians, it is often done by untrained individuals, without anesthesia, in unsterile environments.

Electric Cattle Prod (also called a Hotshot): A device that can deliver an electric current to an animal. It is used to stimulate movement in animals; commonly used with livestock and in rodeos. When animals are poked with the electrified end, they receive a high-voltage, low-current electrical shock. The short shock is not strong enough to kill a large animal, but is enough to cause some pain. Learn more about the ASPCA's position on rodeos.

Factory Farm: A large-scale industrial site where many animals raised for food—mainly chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs—are confined and treated with hormones and antibiotics to maximize growth and prevent disease. The animals lead short, painful lives; factory farms are also associated with various environmental hazards. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Felony Cruelty: Animal cruelty is a crime in all 50 states. But in most states, certain extreme acts of animal cruelty can result felony-level penalties, which are more severe than misdemeanor penalties. Look up your state's animal cruelty laws.

Feral Cat: A cat too poorly socialized to be handled and who cannot be placed into a typical pet home; a subpopulation of free-roaming cats. Learn more about living with feral cats.

Foie Gras: To make this pricey gourmet delicacy, birds are force-fed enormous quantities of food three times daily via a pipe that is inserted into the esophagus. This leads to enlargement of the animal's liver and sometimes rupturing of the internal organs, infection and a painful death. The process typically lasts up to four weeks, until the birds are slaughtered. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Forced Molting: Process by which egg-laying hens are starved for up to 14 days, exposed to changing light patterns and given no water in order to shock their bodies into molting. It is common for 5 percent to 10 percent of hens to die during this process. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Hog-Dog Fighting (also called Hog-Baiting or Hog-Dog Rodeos): A blood sport in which a hog or feral pig is mauled by a trained fighting dog in an enclosed pen. Because its legality, as determined by state anti-cruelty laws, can be vague, many states, particularly in the American South where hog-dog fighting is more common, have passed laws specifically criminalizing it. Learn more about the ASPCA's position on hog-dog rodeos.

Intentional Cruelty: Intentional cruelty occurs when an individual purposely inflicts physical harm or injury on an animal; usually an indicator of a serious human behavior problem. Learn more about animal cruelty.

Internet Hunting (also called Remote-Controlled or Computer-Assisted Hunting):Combines video shooting games with the power of Internet technology to allow a remote computer user to kill real animals. At the game ranch that the "hunters" see on their monitors, a gun is mounted on a robotic tripod controlled by their computer mouse. Animals are lured within close range with food, at which time the armchair hunter can line up a shot and "fire" at will. Legislation has been passed to ban Internet hunting in many states. Learn more about our efforts to end Internet cruelty.

Killer Buyers: Middlemen who travel from horse auction to horse auction, purchasing any horse they can. They eventually sell these animals to slaughterhouses for human consumption, but regularly subject horses to cruel and inhumane treatment-i.e. beating them, depriving them of food and water. Learn more about the ASPCA's efforts to help horses.

Leghold Trap: The steel-jaw leghold trap is most often used to trap wild animals who are killed for their fur, such as beavers, lynx, bobcats and otters. Trapped animals usually do not die instantly, and are left to suffer intense pain, dehydration and starvation. Sometimes dogs and cats who are allowed to roam outdoors are also caught and killed in these traps.

Neglect: The failure to provide an animal with the most basic of requirements of food, water, shelter and veterinary care. Neglect is often the result of simple ignorance on the animal owner's part and is usually handled by requiring the owner to correct the situation. Learn more about animal cruelty.

Pit Bull: A great deal of confusion surrounds this term. This label is used for a type of short-coated large terrier, anywhere from 40 to 80 pounds, characterized by wide, powerful jaws and a muscular, stocky build. Some of the dogs that fall under this category are purebred-either the American Staffordshire Terrier (the "AmStaff") or the American Pit Bull Terrier; term is often used for pit bull mixes. Learn more about cruelty to pit bulls.  
Premarin: A hormone replacement therapy drug made from pregnant mares' urine, collected from horses who are confined in stalls for half the year, strapped to urine collection funnels.

Pound Seizure: The transfer or sale of shelter animals to research facilities of any kind, including those that engage in scientific research and experimentation. The ASPCA is unalterably opposed to this practice. As of 2004, 14 states and many communities prohibit pound seizure either by state law or local regulation. Learn more about pound seizure.

Puppy Mill/Kitty Mill: Breeding facilities that produce large numbers of purebred dogs and cats. The animals are regularly sold to pet shops across the country. Documented problems of puppy mills include overbreeding, inbreeding, poor veterinary care and overcrowding. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in puppy mills.

Soring: Abuses to show horses include painful "soring," whereby a mechanical or chemical agent is applied to the lower leg or hoof of a horse, for the purpose of "enhancing" the animal's gait, forcing him to throw his front legs up and out. This is often done to Tennessee Walking Horses. Learn more about the ASPCA's efforts to help horses.

Stray: A currently or recently owned dog or cat who may be lost; usually well socialized but may become wary over time. A stray's kittens or pups may be feral. 

Spent Hen: After one or two years of producing eggs at an unnaturally high rate, female fowl in factory farms are classified as "spent hens". No longer financially profitable, they are slaughtered. Learn more about efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Tail Banding: A method of docking an animal's tail in which a rubber band or similar ligature is wrapped tightly around the tail at the desired point of removal. This cuts off the blood supply to the end of the tail, which atrophies and usually falls away after a few days. Banding is legal in the United States, and is frequently practiced by laypersons on dairy cows. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.

Tail Docking: The cutting of a purebred dog's tail to conform to a breed standard. Although this unnecessary cosmetic surgery is regularly performed by some veterinarians, it is often done by untrained individuals, without anesthesia, in unsterile environments.

Tenectomy: An operation performed on cats that severs the tendons in the toes so that the cat is unable to extend her nails to scratch. Owners who choose to have this surgery performed must clip their cat's nails regularly, as the cat is unable to maintain them herself.

Tethering: The act of chaining/tieing an animal, usually a dog, to a stationary object as a primary means of confinement. Tethering is a risk factor for aggressive behavior and dog bites. Learn more about animal cruelty.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR): A method of managing feral cat colonies that involves trapping the animals, spaying or neutering them, vaccinating them and returning them to where they were found. The ASPCA promotes this ethical and humane practice. 

White Veal: From birth to slaughter at five months, calves used to produce "formula-fed" or "white" veal are confined to two-foot-wide crates and chained to inhibit movement. They are fed an iron-and fiber-deficient diet resulting in anemia; the lack of exercise retards muscle development, resulting in pale, tender meat. Learn more about our efforts to protect animals in factory farms.