If you are an animal lover, it's good to know that the law is on the side of animals that are abused. In many cases, the perpetrators of such cruelty are successfully brought through the courts by experienced animal lawyers. But what action should you take if you think an animal is being abused? Read on to find out more.
How abuse is defined
Animals are unable to seek the help of the authorities themselves if they are mistreated, so it's up to concerned members of the public to do so on their behalf. So, what constitutes animal abuse in the eyes of animal law?
There are many different forms of animal abuse.
'Sporting' combat events and malicious cruelty
In some areas, the illegal sports of cock fighting and dog fighting are still used as entertainment and as a betting medium. Such events are extremely cruel with the participants often suffering horrific injuries and fatalities are common.
Any action by which an animal is maimed, tortured, or killed is also considered to be abuse.
Neglect and abandonment
An animal can be considered abused if it is neglected or abandoned, for example, if someone goes away on holiday, leaving their pet without food and water, and in unsanitary conditions. Sometimes animals are simply dumped at the roadside because the owner no longer wants them or can't afford to keep them.
Other instances that fall within this category of abuse are cases where someone hoards animals, often in poor or overcrowded conditions. This can lead to sickness outbreaks which may not be dealt with properly, as the owner cannot afford the vet's bills.
If you're not sure that what you have witnessed is a genuine case of animal cruelty, it's always best to report it. The relevant authorities will investigate the case and decide whether further legal action by an animal lawyer is required.
Reporting the abuse
If you suspect that any form of abuse is taking place, you should report the circumstances to the RSPCA.
Make a note of any useful details, for example, where the animal is being kept, when you first witnessed the abuse, what you saw, and the identity of the perpetrator. If it's possible to do so without placing yourself in danger, take photos or video evidence of the abuse taking place. Keep copies of your evidence and give the originals to the RSPCA.
Although you don't have to give your name and may remain anonymous if you wish, cases of serious abuse that result in a criminal prosecution may go to court and your witness evidence will be required by an animal lawyer to secure a successful prosecution.
Should you 'rescue' an abandoned or neglected animal?
Although your first reaction to finding an abandoned or neglected pet might be to rescue it and take it home, you should resist the temptation to do so. If the animal is in imminent danger or poses a risk to the public, for example if you see a dog running loose on a busy road, you should call the police. Strays and cases of serious neglect are best dealt with by the RSPCA who have appropriately trained and experienced officers.
If you think you have witnessed a case of animal abuse, always contact the RSPCA in the first instance. If the case proceeds to prosecution, an animal lawyer will act for the RSPCA on behalf of the animal.