It’s extremely common to have someone postulate a hypothetical situation only to follow up with, “What would you do?” Many times, the response would be something to the effect of, “I can’t say for sure as I’ve never been in that situation.”
We here at BarkPost recognize the importance of being not only educated but prepared for all kinds of dog-related scenarios and want our readers to be able to know – and share with others – exactly what they should do. One of the most important scenarios to be knowledgable about is, “What should I do if I witness animal abuse/neglect?”
It seems as if this would be an incredibly easy question to answer: “I would get help.” But how exactly do you get help for an animal who you either have witnessed or suspect is being abused or neglected?
The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) explains that animal neglect can fit across a broad spectrum which includes, but is not limited to, hoarding, lack of veterinary care, inadequate shelter, chained dogs and abandonement. Animal abuse can be physical with examples such as animals being beaten, kicked, fought or attacked.
The first step when taking action against animal abuse/neglect is to make a phone call. The most direct route for reporting animal abuse would be dialing 911. However, it can also be helpful to call your local animal control, shelter or humane society, which you can conveniently find through an online search for that specific facility.
Additionally, if the area that you live in does not have animal welfare services and the law enforcement is unequipped to handle suspected or witness animal abuse/neglect, you “may email or call The HSUS and ask to speak with one of [their] experts about the suspected abuse.”
The HSUS also states that if you’re reporting animal abuse/neglect, the details are extremely important – the date, time of day, location, a description of the animal(s) and person(s) involved as well as photographs and video can be extremely helpful in investigation as well as prosecution.
Perhaps someone would not report abuse because they are fearful of retribution from the abuser. As the HSUS explains, “most jurisdictions will accept an anonymous report of animal cruelty.” When you make a call to report suspected or witnessed animal abuse/neglect, you can ask to remain anonymous. When reporting, it’s essential to remember that you may be the only person who can, or will, speak up for that animal. Your voice could save the life of an animal who cannot make their voice heard.
On the contrary, some may question, “But who wouldn’t report animal abuse/neglect if they witnessed it?” There have been cases like Reggie, whose story is below, where animal cruelty has gone unreported, the consequences of which can be grave.
When McKeesport Police conducted a drug raid on Friday, March 18th, 2016, they found something unexpected – a three-year-old Pit Bull/Mastiff mix who was extremely emaciated and in need of immediate care.
The dog was named Reggie, and he was taken in by Humane Officer Ed Mitchell to the Western PA Humane Society, who determined that he was a 1 on a 1-to-9 body condition scale and 30-40 pounds underweight. Mary Withrow, Shelter Director and Director of Government & Community Relations at the WPA Humane Society, told BarkPost:
“[Reggie’s] body condition score was a one. Nine being the best, one being he shouldn’t still be with us.”
Ultimately, Reggie was moved to Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center (PVSEC) and given a blood transfusion to help him recover.
Seeing a dog as neglected and emaciated as Reggie – his skull so sunken that the top of his head was more diamond-shaped than round – is beyond heartbreaking. What made Reggie’s condition even more unfortunate was the fact that people saw Reggie, saw how abused he was, and yet no one reported his situation to authorities. Had that drug raid not been conducted, it’s safe to say that Reggie would’ve died in the home as a direct result of neglect and cruelty, unremembered, unnamed, unknown.
Instead, Reggie was given proper medical care, warm blankets, shirts to wear over his frail body, a little polar bear that squeaked – which became his favorite toy – and so much love.
Dogs such as Reggie, who have been so abused and neglected that their body condition is a 1, have gone on, against all odds, to recover from their abuse. However, in an incredibly unfortunate turn, Reggie developed pneumonia and, due to his existing condition, it became too much for his body. Reggie was humanely euthanized only a week after being removed from his abusers.
The most tragic part of Reggie’s story is that his death was entirely preventable. Because Reggie was severely neglected and no one spoke up and reported Reggie’s condition when they saw him, he died. Heartbreakingly, explaining Reggie’s death is as simple as that.
Even prior to Reggie’s passing, Mary was adamant about the fact that Reggie could have been treated much sooner, and possibly saved, had someone simply reported his abuse.
I would REALLY like to drive home the fact that NO ONE said anything about him. No one called police, animal control or our Humane Investigations Department. Please — if you see animal abuse/neglect, please SAY SOMETHING. Calls to our department are kept confidential and you can remain anonymous. Please speak up for those who can’t.
If you ever witness or suspect animal abuse, think of Reggie and how you can save a dog – or dogs – from the same unfortunate outcome. Because you can. YOU can be the reason a dog is given a chance at life.
We don’t write about these kinds of stories to make people so upset that they feel their cheeks flush or so heartbroken that they are openly weeping at their desks. We write about them because these stories are the reality for many more dogs than just Reggie, and if we ever want that to change, we must take action.
Channel your frustrations and outrage at Reggie’s story into positive change, whether that be:
Volunteering with a local shelter or rescue.
Becoming a foster parent which can include providing foster homes for other dogs like Reggie who would be considered a medical case.
Donating to your local shelters and rescues.
Raising awareness for animals who have been victims of abuse and neglect.
Or advocating for stronger laws against animal neglect and cruelty in your state.
There is incredible need in the animal welfare community, and that void can be filled – and more animals can be saved – once we begin to take action.
Animals who are abused do not have a choice, nor do they have a way to tell others of their situation. They will continue to be kept in an abusive/neglectful situation until someone speaks up for them. Be that someone and save another Reggie, before they, too, become an unfortunate and heartbreakingly real example of unreported animal cruelty.
What we know of Reggie’s story is the end part – when he was rescued as an emaciated, extremely sick dog and many people attempted to heal his body so that he would have a chance at the life he always deserved. And while this is all that we know of Reggie, he is more than his abuse.
He had a future which we will never be able to see. Instead, Reggie’s future will be seen in other dogs his story helps to save.
**This article was written in the hope that Reggie’s abuse and neglect that led to his death will be used to save other animals who are in the same situation. Please speak up and report animal abuse/neglect.**
H/t WTAE Channel 4 Action News
Featured image via Western PA Humane Society
Sources: CBS Pittsburgh