Pets - Pet Abuse And Neglect
animal animals cruelty hsus
According to the HSUS, thousands of animal abuse and neglect cases are reported to authorities each year. Tracking these cases is difficult because there is no government database of all cases. In 2001 a woman named Alison Gianotto of California began an online database of abuse cases—www.pet-abuse.com—after her cat was stolen and set on fire. As of February 2005, the database listed information on 3,736 cases. The vast majority (3,371) occurred in the United States. Data can be searched by state, date, perpetrator name, type of animal, type of abuse, or sex of perpetrator. Photographs are included for some cases. Each case description includes media and/or law enforcement or court references so that information can be verified.
The HSUS compiles statistics on "high-profile" abuse cases based on media reports. Its most recent report is The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) First Strike Campaign 2003 Report of Animal Cruelty Cases. The report covers calendar year 2003 and presents data related to 1,373 cases involving 1,682 perpetrators. Just over half (57%) of the cases involved intentional cruelty, while 43% involved extreme animal neglect.
The HSUS defines abuse (or cruelty) as purposefully depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization, or veterinary care or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal. These are considered intentional acts that give the abuser pleasure. Neglect is not considered to be intentional, but results in an animal
|Animal type||Percentage of cruelty cases for 2003||2002||2001||2000|
|Common offenses||Percent of violent cases||Percent of cases involving males||Percent of cases involving females|
|Animal sexual abuse||1%||88%||12%|
|Run over with vehicle||1%||100%||0%|
not receiving proper shelter, food, water, attention, grooming, or veterinary care.
As shown in Table 9.10, companion animals were the victims in 71% of the cruelty cases examined by the HSUS in 2003. This percentage is down slightly from the previous three years. More than half of the animals involved in these cases each year either died from the abuse or had to be euthanized.
As shown in Table 9.11, shooting, animal fighting, torturing, beating, and mutilation were the most common violent offenses committed against animals. Overall, males were responsible for 92% of the cruelty cases. Adults (aged twenty and up) accounted for 77% of the cruelty cases, while teenagers accounted for 22% and children accounted for 1%. Cruelty cases involving dogs outnumbered those involving cats by a margin of two to one. The HSUS believes that dog cases are more likely to be reported to authorities.
The HSUS statistics show that 15% of the intentional animal cruelty cases also involved some form of concurrent family violence—for example, child or spousal abuse. Authorities have long known about the link between animal abuse and family violence. The American Humane Association (AHA) was founded in 1877 as a collection of organizations working against child and animal abuse. It now operates the National Resource Center on the Link between Violence to People and Animals. The AHA works to strengthen animal abuse laws and to advocate early intervention in cases where children abuse animals to prevent the violence from escalating. According to the AHA, a large majority of families being treated for child abuse incidents also report instances of animal abuse.
Another form of animal abuse is called animal hoarding. Animal hoarders collect large numbers of pets and do not provide proper care for them. Most hoarders start out with good intentions, taking in a few strays to help, but the situation can quickly grow out of control as the animals breed or the person takes in more and more animals. The animals are often kept inside the home and allowed to urinate and defecate there. Hoarders are oblivious to the negative effects of their actions on their pets and even on themselves. They see themselves as animal rescuers. Most will not admit that the severe overcrowding is unsanitary and unhealthy for the animals. The AMVA estimated in 2002 that there are 700 reported cases of pet hoarding annually in the United States.
Dr. Gary Patronek is the founder of the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at Tufts University (http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/). The group studies the hoarding problem and works to increase awareness among mental-health and social-service workers. In 1999 Patronek examined fifty-four cases of animal hoarding from around the United States. Each hoarder kept an average of thirty-nine animals, mostly cats, dogs, farm animals, and birds. Patronek found that most hoarders were unmarried females living alone. Nearly half were at least sixty years old. In a majority of the cases, animal feces and urine were in the person's living quarters. The hoarders' beds had been soiled by feces and urine in more than 25% of the cases. Although sick or dead animals were involved in the vast majority of the cases, most of the hoarders refused to acknowledge that there was a problem with the animals. Patronek believes that hoarding is a pathological problem. Some psychiatric experts suspect that it is a psychological disorder similar to obsessive-compulsive behavior.
In January 2003 authorities discovered the worst case of animal hoarding in U.S. history. An elderly couple living in rural Malheur County, Oregon, was found to have more than 550 dogs in and around their home. The dogs were scattered around the property, with some living inside the home, some in pens, and some in abandoned cars. Many of the dogs were sick and mal-nourished. More than 100 had to be euthanized. The remainder were distributed among various shelters and rescue groups in the area. The couple was charged with criminal neglect, animal neglect, and criminal mischief. Authorities discovered that they had been charged with similar offenses in 1996 related to the keeping of 200 dogs at their prior residence.
In 2001 Illinois became the first state to pass legislation dealing specifically with animal hoarding as a crime separate from animal cruelty or neglect. The Illinois law is considered by some animal activists to be model legislation for other states because it recognizes that hoarding may be a mental-health problem and recommends psychiatric treatment for offenders.