12 Signs of Animal Abuse

abandoned dog behind bars

Thousands of instances of animal neglect and abuse are reported across Australia every single year. Sad but true. Want to do your bit to help out? First, read this to discover how you identify animal abuse. And then read up on how to report animal abuse appropriately.

It can be difficult for us pet lovers to understand, but sadly many people abuse or neglect their animals. The RSPCA alone responds to more than 58 000 reports of animal abuse, neglect and abandonment each year.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll find that number sickening. Animals have the right to a peaceful existence with access to food, water, shelter and proper care.

At PD Insurance, we think being a fantastic pet owner is a joy, not a chore. Check out our guide to loving-up your pets here.

Another way you can love animals is the educate yourself on the signs of animal abuse. Because the reality is, most neglected or abused animals rely on the eyes and ears of the public for their protection.

It could be said that anyone who witnesses the mistreatment of an animal has a moral obligation to intervene.

But it can be hard to know for sure if an animal is being abused. It can be even harder still to know how to help without risking your own safety. This article will help you identify animal abuse and tell you what to do to help.

Signs of Animal Abuse

Animal abuse comes in many forms, from neglectful living conditions to deliberate physical harm and abandonment.

This article covers the top signs than an animal is being abused. If you observe any of these signs individually or in combination, you should report the case to the RSPCA.

Lack of food or water

Pets should have 24/7 access to clean water and be fed nutritious food daily. If you have observed an animal is not having these needs met, they’re likely being neglected.

Poor skin and coat condition

The physical condition of a dog or cat can give the best clue as to whether they’re being mistreated or neglected. Animals with excessive fleas, open wounds or mange – with patches of fur missing – require medical attention. If their owner isn’t getting them that care then they’re abusing their pet.

Of course, some cat and dog skin conditions persist despite the owner working hard to remedy them.

Evidence of bodily trauma

Animals that have missing or damaged body parts that remain untreated are suffering neglect or abuse. Limping could also be a sign that something untoward is happening.

They could even be the victim of illegal dog fighting, particularly in breeds like staffies, pit bulls and other ‘pig dog’ type breeds. Read more about illegal dog fighting in Australia here.

Never place your body in between fighting dogs

Lack of shelter

Animals that are subjected to the elements without relief are neglected animals. Pets should have somewhere to retreat from sun, rain and wind. If not an undercover area, then at least a kennel or lean-to type shelter.

Tethered or caged

If the animal is tied up all the time or caged regularly in cramped conditions, this is a sign of abuse. Animals should be able to move freely; if not in a backyard then in a good-sized area that provides shelter and enrichment.

Why is play so important for dogs and cats? Find out here.

Chain around neck

If a dog has a chain around its neck 24/7, it’s possible this is digging into the dog’s flesh. The same can be true of collars or ropes that are too tight or are not adjusted properly as the animal grows.

Lack of sanitisation

If the animal is living atop its own urine and faeces and this isn’t cleaned away regularly, that’s a sign of neglect.


Animals who appear to be left in homes, yards, bushland or public areas without people to take care of them are classified as abandoned. Abandonment is illegal and is a form of animal abuse. 

Lost Pets: A Checklist for How to Find Them

Too many animals in one place

Animal hoarding is a thing, and it can be a major cause of neglect. People with too many animals are usually unable to provide adequate food, water, shelter and care for all of them.

Sadly, animal hoarders are often severely misguided animal lovers. But all the same, these cases must be reported.

Fear or aggression in the animal

Animals who are abused learn to be fearful of people – especially of their abuser. Fear usually leads to aggression. A dog that is clearly fearful of or aggressive towards its owner and/or others is cause for alarm.

Fearing for your safety? Or perhaps your own dog has aggression issues? Read our ‘Dog Attacks: How to Help Prevent Them‘ article.

Overly submissive animals

If a dog appears overly submissive to its owner, that can also be a sign something isn’t right. Submissive behaviour in a dog includes cowering on the ground, rolling over onto its back and out of control urination. 

Acts of physical violence

If you witness someone hitting, kicking, squeezing, throwing or otherwise harming their pet, that’s a great reason to report them for animal abuse. This behaviour is never justified – it’s not a legitimate ‘training’ technique.

Want to know how to train your dog in a positive way? Check out our top tips here.

How can you help an abused animal?

So now you know how to identify animal abuse, the question is: what can you do to help? In Australia you contact the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment. State and territory governments have primary responsibility for animal welfare and laws to prevent cruelty. You can find individual contact details depending on the Australian state or territory that you live in here.

Alternatively, read our blog on how to report animal abuse then take the required steps.

Another way you can help is to volunteer with, or donate to, animal shelters. Every bit of assistance helps!

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Caring for your own fur babies

We’re assuming that, because you’re here reading our blog, you’re already a wonderful pet parent. But accidents and illness can happen, and when they do, it’s good to know your fur baby is covered for prompt medical treatment.

To find an affordable pet cover plan to safeguard your four-legged mate, click our pet insurance page here.

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