By Courtney Emken
co-written by Bart Emken, CPDT-KA, Jen Larson, KPA-CTP, and Amanda Ott
We wish every dog could have a peaceful life with loving owners, but the unfortunate reality is that many dogs are neglected, ignored, and outright abused. We all have to be on alert for potential signs of abuse and know how to report it to the proper channels—here’s how you can help.
The Top Signs Of Potential Dog Abuse Or Neglect
The first sign that may point towards abuse is a dog who’s chained up outside. If you notice this, find the answers to these questions:
- Does the dog have limited/negligible contact with other dogs/humans?
- Is the dog’s range of movement tightly restricted by their chain/tether?
- Does the dog have access to fresh water, or are they drinking from puddles?
- Does the dog have access to shaded areas for taking shelter from the sun?
- Is there an accessible dog house or porch to protect them from overexposure?
- Does the owner rarely feed the dog? What does their food availability look like?
If you answer yes to many of these questions, abuse is likely. See if you can (safely) get closer to the dog and check for wounds or injuries. Look for easily identifiable conditions like mange, skin infections, and malnutrition that could indicate neglect.
You should also, if possible, check the dog’s collar. Many neglectful owners will chain a puppy to their yard and never change their collar. As the puppy grows, the collar restricts their trachea, causes infection, and rubs their flesh raw. This should be reported ASAP for the dog’s safety.
In Austin, it’s actually against the law to tether or chain dogs. However, if you live in Pflugerville or elsewhere in the Greater Austin Area, this alone is not enough to file charges. You need to accumulate enough evidence to clearly demonstrate abuse or willful negligence.
How To Contact The Proper Authorities And Stop Pet Abuse
It can be difficult to witness and document blatant physical abuse. While hearing a dog yelp in pain is not a good sign, you can’t be 100% sure that it stems from an abusive owner. You need to watch for more direct signals of abuse, and document them as much as you can, using:
- Detailed written notes
- Numerous pictures
- Phone/camera footage
The more evidence you can accumulate, the more helpful you’ll be to future investigators. If you think you’ve witnessed animal abuse in Austin, or have evidence you’d like to share with the proper authorities, contact APD’s Animal Cruelty Unit by calling 311.
Here are some great general guidelines for recognizing and reporting abuse across the country:
- The Humane Society of the United States Guide
- ASPCA Report Animal Cruelty Guide
- SPCA Texas Animal Cruelty Complaint Form
If you hear a dog who’s constantly barking outside, and seems to never be let inside or get to play with other dogs/people, consider calling an animal abuse hotline instead of filing a noise complaint. The problem is often not the with dog, but the abusive situation the dog has been forced into.
While it may be tempting to liberate an abused dog from their neglectful owners, your best option is to repeatedly call 311 and lodge complaints. An officer may come to interview you for details, but it’s possible that they won’t pursue the case seriously until they get multiple calls.
Officers will often let owners off with a warning during the first incident. They tend to assume that a misunderstanding took place, unless they see the dog seriously injured or in obvious physical danger. That’s why it’s so important to call each time you witness further abuse or neglect.
Distinguishing Between Shy/Anxious Dogs And Abused Dogs
There’s a fine line between abuse and corrections. It can be difficult to determine whether a dog is cringing or flinching because they’re naturally shy, anxious, or previously abused, or because their owner is subjecting them to abuse.
Unfortunately, most of the common signs of abuse are also present in dogs who are naturally anxious, or whose previous owners abused them. If the dog is:
It could point to abuse, but it could easily be caused by other issues. For some dogs, just being yelled at is enough to cause emotional and psychological damage. It’s almost impossible to know if their owner caused the behavior, or if it’s something they’re trying to work through with the dog.
We always say that if it looks or feels wrong to you, there’s a good chance that it’s wrong. Trust your intuition. It’s better to call and be wrong than not call and be right.
At DogBoy’s, we have zero tolerance for cruelty to animals. Our dogs are part of the family; we can’t imagine treating them any other way. If you want more information, or want to know how you can join the fight against abuse in your area, contact us. We can all do our part to help.
Sad Dog by Jonas Boni
Dog Outside by InkHong
Chained Dog by Christian Siedler