What Classifies as Animal Abuse
Animal abuse or cruelty is any act which results in the harming of an animal, whether it is intentional or through negligence. This includes a person’s own pets. There are 2 main categories of animal cruelty which are treated differently by law enforcement authorities; these are intentional cruelty and neglect. While intentional cruelty is easier to understand and most of us find it obvious which acts are classified in this category, neglect is harder to describe primarily because it encompasses a very wide array of actions (or inactions).
In short, neglect is the failure to provide an animal you own or care for with adequate shelter, food, water, or care (medical or otherwise). This includes, but is not limited to: submitting and animal to starvation or dehydration; failure to treat parasite infections; failure to seek veterinary aid when the animal is in need of it; confinement of the animal without providing adequate light/space/ventilation; keeping an animal in unsanitary conditions; failure to care for the animal’s nails or hoofs which results in excessive growth.
While the past half decade has seen dramatic improvements in the fight against animal cruelty, there is still much to be done. There is no single, unified, widely accepted definition of the term ‘animal cruelty’ – something which has greatly hampered individual pursuits for justice. Due to the lack of a unified legislation in these matters, many matters of animal cruelty must be fought on a case-by-case basis, slowing down the process. And not only that, but even the more widely accepted definitions of the term are nowhere near to understanding and covering every animal’s basic needs.
In the almost every situation where there is a law in place in order to prevent animal cruelty, that law only ever accounts for cases in which the abuse is morally wrong from a human’s point of view. This means that virtually no law or set of laws takes into account the animals’ social needs – something which a great many people find very frustrating, having reported a case of what they consider animal abuse only to then find out that no laws were, in fact ,broken. One of the best examples for such a case is the classical ‘dog tied with chain’ situation. Imagine a house with a yard. In this yard there is a dog house – sufficiently large for the dog living inside, and well maintained. Tied to this dog house there is – as expected – a dog. One that is to all extents and purposes living an apparently good life, being well fed and hydrated, not physically abused in any way, and not ill. The dog, however, is chained to its house permanently. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not only that, but the owner hardly ever interacts with it.
In this case, the dog is living in virtual social isolation, suffering from a severe lack of social interaction – something incredibly important for a pack animal such as the dog. Is this wrong? Yes. Yes it is. Is it legal? Unfortunately, the answer is still yes. The dog is not the victim of animal cruelty according to any of the diverse definitions of animal abuse. Nevertheless, this dog is suffering, and is treated poorly by an owner who either does not understand what the dog needs, or simply does not care. There is still a long way to go on the road to true animal protection laws.