How to Spot and Report Dog Abuse

You may have seen a commercial portraying a starved, filthy looking dog lying in the dirt with a scared expression. Could dog abuse be happening in your neighborhood?

Apr 30, 2023By Jennifer Hinders
how to spot and report dog abuse

She was a cute little rescue dog with big problems. When anyone entered the house, she physically shook with fear. Most of the day, she cowered in the corner of her bed. She cried pitifully when you tried to pet her. Although we didn't know her background story, we knew she'd undoubtedly suffered abuse. It was heartbreaking to see the effects abuse had on her. If only someone had stepped in to stop it.

How can you spot dog abuse when you see it? And what should you do?

What is dog abuse?

abused dog

Dog abuse is cruelty that causes a dog unnecessary suffering or pain. It includes neglect, abuse, torture, abandonment, bestiality, or animal death. Studies show that animal cruelty in one's childhood is linked to violent tendencies later in life. It's more prevalent than you think and often goes unreported. Today, as dog ownership has grown, so has dog abuse.

What are signs a dog is abused?

sad dog

Sadly, dogs are one of the most abused domestic animals. Dog abuse can be physical or emotional. People who abuse their dogs don't always consider what they're doing to be abusive. Signs a dog is being abused may result in behaviors such as:

  • Excess drooling, panting, pacing, or barking
  • Urinating or pooping in the house
  • Aggression or destructive behavior
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Fear
  • Licking themselves
  • Hiding

What are the most common forms of dog abuse?

fenced dog

Over the years, dog adoptions have increased, and so has dog abuse. Individuals who thought they'd enjoy having a dog should have considered the time, energy, and money involved in raising a dog. As the stress of having a dog grows, they take their frustration out on the dog. Some dog parents must be taught how to care for their dogs properly. Perhaps they saw people hit dogs or keep them in cages outside growing up. Whatever the reason, there’s no excuse for dog abuse. Here are the most common types of dog abuse today.


Neglect is the most common form of dog abuse. If a dog doesn't get the proper vaccinations or isn't groomed regularly, it's considered neglect. When a dog parent doesn't provide their pet with enough water, food, vet care, or shelter, it's considered dog abuse.

Strangely enough, some individuals adopt many dogs but fail to provide them with the necessary space, sanitation, shelter, or nutrition. This behavior is called animal hoarding, and it's a growing problem. Animal hoarding is one of the most common forms of neglect of dogs.

Even though someone has good intentions of rescuing dogs from a shelter, having too many dogs is neglect. Other signs a dog may be neglected include:

  • Dog looks underfed
  • Nails are too long
  • Fleas or ticks on the dog's coat
  • They look dirty, and matted coat
  • Too tight of a collar
  • Their gait is off as if they're in pain in their legs or hips
  • Constantly barking all day when alone at home
  • Too many dogs on one property
  • A dog is chained or caged in a small area

Remember, not taking proper care of a dog or dogs is cruel. Don't hesitate to contact the authorities if you notice a dog is neglected.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse of a dog causes it pain through behaviors such as:

  • Hitting
  • Choking
  • Dragging
  • Kicking
  • Throwing
  • Stomping
  • Cutting
  • Burning
  • Sexual contact
  • Poisoning

It's hard to imagine a dog suffering this kind of treatment. It's thought that approximately 65% of abused animals are indeed dogs. Certain breeds are often the victims of abuse, and sadly the Pitbull is the most abused dog breed in the world.

What should you do if you think a dog is being abused?

fenced buddies

If you suspect neglect, consider getting to know the dog's guardian better to assess the situation properly. Visit their home if possible and even offer to walk the dog or dogs. If the dog's lives aren't in danger, it could be that the individual adopted multiple dogs without thinking about the commitment they were making. They may feel overwhelmed but don't know what to do. Your friendship and assistance could be a relief to them and provide an opportunity for you to suggest they relinquish some of their dogs. If you suspect neglect but aren't sure if the person would be open to your help, it's best to stay out of it and contact the proper authorities.

If you see a dog in your neighborhood physically or emotionally abused, you should immediately contact animal services. Evidence of physical or emotional abuse could include the following:

  • A person constantly yanks hard or pulls a dog with a leash
  • Choke collars or prong collars
  • Shock collar
  • Someone hitting a dog
  • Someone yelling at a dog
  • Kicking a dog
  • Punching a dog
  • Dogfighting

Avoid approaching an individual who is deliberately hurting a dog. They might take their anger out on you. If possible, get photos of what you're seeing. Contact authorities, or animal control.

Law enforcement agencies take animal cruelty seriously because dog abuse affects public safety. Dog abuse is serious and should be reported immediately, but there are risks. If you choose to report dog abuse, it's important that you know that if the case goes to prosecution, you might be called to testify in court as a witness to the abuse.

Jennifer Hinders
By Jennifer Hinders

Jennifer writes extensively about dogs for pet blogs and magazines. Jennifer is a dog parent to Sam, an energetic cattle dog/ lab mix she rescued 11 years ago. Sam's hardy breed makes him act like a pup which makes him lots of fun.