Animal Abuse Facts and Statistics

It’s really hard to write about animal abuse facts. It’s hard to do the research, read the stories, get the statistics, watch the videos, and see the pictures. But the statistics are just so disturbing that readers need to know the truth.

According to the Human Society of the United States, there is no national reporting system for abuse to animals. However Pet-Abuse.com has collected statistics on animal cruelty since 2001. As of October 13, 2012 they have 19,517 cases listed on their web site. The following animal abuse stats for the U.S. are from their database:

Top 5 Types of Abuse

  • 32% neglect or abandonment
  • 12% hoarding
  • 11% shooting
  • 9% fighting
  • 7% beating

Most of the above forms of violence toward animals is self-explanatory. However, hoarding may need some more explanation. This involves people who are often well intentioned but what they do is collect animals and may have hundreds of animals living in their house, barn or yard. It’s pretty much impossible to take care of this number of animals well and the cost of food and veterinary care would be sky high. Hoarding is really another form of neglect, just on a much grander scale than traditional neglect or abandonment.

Most cases of abuse toward animals are directed toward dogs, cats, and horses. The statistics on dogs included non-pit bulls pit bulls. Of the cases listed on their website, 48% are alleged cases, 24% are convicted records, and 16% are open. Most abusers of animals are men between 31 and 50 years of age.

While many animal cruelty cases are tracked on the web, it is believed the number of cases is much greater. A recent search of Google News found more than 10 articles regarding allegations or convictions toward animals in September in Texas alone compared to just 13 on Pet-Abuse.com for all of the United States. In other words, the data on animal abuse is even worse than what is reported on well known web sites.

A sampling of articles found the following stories on animal cruelty on October 12, 2012. Perhaps the worst of which was the report on Michael Vick, convicted felon for dog fighting, confirmed he now owns a dog again. According to news reports, this is a family pet and he wants to try to “break the cycle” of pet abuse. How can anyone forget Vick’s story of serving 18 months in prison for running an interstate dog fighting ring? Unfortunately his dog ownership is perfectly legal as he completed his parole in May and so now can legally own a dog. Perhaps even more ironic is how reporters found out he had a new dog. Apparently Vick tweeted a picture of himself and in the photo was a box of dog bones on the kitchen table.

Seven other stories were found on Google News for October 12, 2012. The articles included 5 cases of alleged abuse of animals and two convictions of cruelty against animals. Four of the stories indicated abuse against dogs, two were about horses, and one about 6 kittens stoned by teenagers. Two of stories involved shootings and two involved neglect.

Given the number of cases, the laws passed by states to guard against cruelty to animals have gotten much tougher over the years with all but two states (North Dakota and South Dakota) now having felony provisions according to the American Legal Defense Fund. Mississippi was the most recent state in 2011 to enact felony provisions.

The federal government also has a cruelty to animals law in the form of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966. The act covers the regulation of animal care for animal dealers, exhibitors, transporters, and research facilities. The law covers dogs, cats, and other warm-blooded animals as deemed by the Secretary of Agriculture. It does not cover birds or laboratory mice or rats. The most recent updated to the Animal Welfare Act came in 2007 and 2008 when the law was amended to strengthen provisions against animal fighting. The 2007 amendment made animal fighting a felony and punishable by up to three years in prison.

Read at your own Risk: Grim Statistics

Massachusetts has perhaps the strongest enforcement organization in the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). This is a certified group of police officers who focus on investigate allegations of abuse to pets. A study of 80,000 complaints on file with the MSPCA from 1975 to 1996 resulted in 268 cases where efforts were made to prosecute individuals. This study had the following findings:

  • Dogs (58%) and cats (27%) were the most common victims.
  • Beating, shooting, stabbing, throwing and burning were the top methods of cruelty.
  • 44% of cases were prosecuted and found guilty, 5% were prosecuted and not found guilty, and 26% were dismissed.
  • 70% of the people who abused an animal had committed other crimes including violent (38%), property (44%), drug (37%) and disorder crimes (37%)
  • Almost 60% were violent toward animals after they had committed another crime
  • The most common method of sentencing was a fine but hopefully a more recent study would should stiffer penalties since punishment for people who hurt animals has gotten much tougher over the years.

Michael Vick helped link a face to animal abuse but there are many more stories of violence. In the coming months, we plan to build a database of animal abuse facts from Google news stories. In addition to this, we will bring you stories of love and caring of these abused animals as rescue groups work to get the animals placed in loving homes.