Animal cruelty is legally defined as the intentional physical abuse or torture of an animal, or neglecting an animal to the point of endangering its health and/or life. This includes acts of:
- physically beating or torturing an animal to the point of injury or death
- long-term or permanent confinement in spaces that are too small for it
- keeping it on a chain that is too tight or too short to allow it to move freely within a safe area
- witholding food and water or feeding it food that has rotted or spoiled
- deliberately putting it in a situation where it literally has to fight for its life
- not providing proper veterinary care
Animal Cruelty – what does it look like?
We all think we know what animal cruelty looks like. We’ve all seen the horrendous pictures of dogs or cats locked in cages, emaciated and wallowing in their own waste. And graphic images of wounds from deliberately misused training collars. We’ve seen neglected dogs with flea and tick infestations so severe that the dog becomes anemic.
Then there are the news items about dogs left on chains and neglected for so long that the collar, rope, or whatever they were tied with becomes embedded in their neck. News stories about puppies and dogs with their mouths bound with duct tape or electrical tape (a tactic used by people to stop the dog from barking or biting, and used by dogfighters on bait dogs so they can’t fight back). Or puppies and kittens hung with an electrical extension cord or rope and swung from ceiling fans.
These are all examples of extreme abuse – and there is no level of abuse that is not extreme. It is a human being deliberately inflicting pain upon an animal, with the intent to harm it. It is a human being deliberately neglecting an animal for any reason.
Animal abuse is not training gone wrong.
Training is necessary
Many people include the simple act of discipline in a category of animal cruelty. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The act of training your dog using reward and correction methods, and using training tools properly, does not harm your dog when applied apropriately and judiciously.
Some people believe that simply telling your dog “no” or training it to be still and calm is cruel. Quite a few people have dogs with bad manners, as a result. They let their dogs go running up to people and dogs they don’t know. Those owners may know their dog to be friendly, sure – but the dog it’s running up to may not be. Or it may be scared, nervous, or have other behavior issues.
Letting your dog behave in an uncontrolled manner is a potentially life-threatening situation waiting to happen. Yet, people who let their dogsbehave like this don’t like to tell their dogs “no” because they feel it’s cruel. The reality is, not training your dog is cruel – they are not safe. You, and those around you, are not safe around a poorly trained animal with no respect for boundaries or limits.
Training is not animal cruelty
Training a dog to behave, and teaching a dog to be calm and still on command, is paramount for his own safety, as well as the safety of others around you. Consequences, in the context of discipline, are important for your dog to learn. Training tools are an important part of the training process. When you choose training tools, make sure that you learn how to properly and safely use them.
Properly training with the right tools, done correctly, is not animal cruelty.
Telling your dog “no” will not hurt them. Not allowing them to behave in an uncontrolled manner will not damage them. That’s not cruelty. But leaving them to their own devices without supervision of any sort, without training, could possibly result in their injury or death. And that is animal cruelty.