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What is Animal Cruelty?

Animal cruelty is a fairly broad term that is used to describe the abuse and/or neglect of an animal. The Maryland state statute defines an “animal” as any living creature except a human being. The state law defines “cruelty” as the unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering caused or allowed by an act, omission, or neglect. Under Maryland law, cruelty includes the torture or torment of an animal.

Cruelty to animals can be in the form of intentional torture and/or abuse to include things like hitting, beating, shooting, or stabbing. Other forms of animal cruelty include negligence or a failure to act. For example, failing to provide proper food, water, or shelter for an animal, or failing to provide necessary veterinary care for a sick and/or injured animal – all fall under the provisions of the cruelty law. Animal fighting also called “blood sports” is another barbaric form of animal cruelty. Thankfully, in the United States, there are local, state, and federal laws that prohibit animal cruelty.

Veterinary professionals play an integral role in the prevention, identification, and prosecution of animal cruelty. Since the victims of animal cruelty cannot speak, veterinary professionals are frequently relied upon to help identify and prove cases of animal cruelty. In fact, veterinary forensics is an important aspect of many animal cruelty prosecutions.

Animal cruelty is more prevalent than most people think and is compounded by the fact that the victims of these crimes are so vulnerable. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can help prevent cruelty to animals – and they’re pretty simple! First, take proper care of your pets to ensure they live long, happy and healthy lives. Second, promptly report animal abuse and neglect to law enforcement authorities. Most agencies will even take anonymous reports from concerned citizens. Third, and another critically important step, is to remember it takes a community. All too frequently animal cruelty is associated with other types of violence. From domestic violence to child abuse, from elder abuse to gambling – animals are frequently an overlooked victim of the circumstances or the mechanism for identifying other crimes.

Compassion breeds compassion. Kindness, empathy, and support help to build up communities from despair. Volunteer at your local animal shelter and perhaps even consider adopting your next pet from your local shelter! But whatever you do, don’t forget to teach your kids the importance of empathy, compassion, and the immense power of the human-animal bond!

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