Animal Cruelty: Exploring Dog Abuse Causes, History, Effects and Solutions

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Dog abuse is a pervasive problem. Dogs are abused in every corner of the world, in every country. It says a lot about a society that would allow this to occur. Many countries, including the United States, view this as a solvable problem. When you have people who care about dogs, organizations that work to reduce suffering and save dogs, there is progress. New laws that protect dogs and other animals are more frequently being passed into law, and the general public is now more aware and more educated about the problem. Together, as a caring group working as one unit, we can help alleviate suffering and tackle this problem head-on. We have already made a lot of progress, but we still have some distance to go. People care more about preventing dog abuse and animal welfare today than in any other time in human history. As a society we have learned that animals are important, they have rights, and they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. There are many ways we can prevent dog abuse. The public awareness of dog abuse and animal welfare is much greater than in the past. Dogs and animals, in general, have more rights and more resources for their welfare than in the past. There are harsher punishments for abuse, more national and local organizations dedicated to helping animals and people are more concerned about the welfare of animals in our society than they have ever been. As a worldwide community let’s ask ourselves: How would ending dog abuse benefit society as a whole and how can people take positive and realistic steps towards this goal?

There is a widespread myth that some dogs were bred to be violent. Dogs of different breeds have their own particular traits and characteristics and behaviors unique to their breed. Some breeds of dogs were developed to carry out a specific job. Jobs like retrieving game, hunting or herding fall into this category. The modern pit bull is descended from the bull-baiting dog, originally from England. Some pit bulls were selected and bred for a particular purpose, like their fighting ability, for work purposes or for companionship. Even pit bulls bred to fight each other were not prone to aggressiveness to people. Veterinarians have long believed that any dog can be aggressive or not based on early training, socialization or environment.

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Many factors can lead to aggressive behavior in dogs. Behaviors such as breeding for protection, fighting, social status or financial gain are all relevant. Other factors include chaining, tethering, neglect, abuse or not enough supervision or training. Dogs are individuals just like people, they are not inherently aggressive. A dog’s behavior, just like a person’s behavior, grows and develops through a complex relationship between genetics and the environment.

Genotype is dog’s predisposition for a certain behavior like a sheepdog herding sheep or a dog as a hunter or a retriever. Phenotype is how a dog is trained or curbed, and a dog can be influenced to a large degree by its environment and surroundings. A dog’s behavior doesn’t fully rely on genetic predisposition. Every owner needs to understand their dog, no matter the breed. All dogs need love, attention, and exercise. Development of behavior can be affected by early nutrition, the stress level of the mother, temperature in the womb and many more factors.

With regard to dog abuse, Breed- Specific- Legislation (BSL) attempts to address the issue of vicious dogs, dog abuse, and dog attacks. The question of whether dogs are born or bred to be violent is a controversial one. Breed-specific legislation typically targets the “pit bull” class of dogs. These breeds can include American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier and English bull terrier. Some additional breeds can be American bulldogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds and Doberman Pincers. It can also include any mix of these breeds. More than 700 cities in America have Breed Specific Legislation. BSL’s try to prevent severe and fatal dog attacks by outlawing people from owning those specific breeds. Some people claim it is discrimination. Others claim it is an invasion of privacy. There is no evidence that BSL’s make communities safer and the Centers for disease control (CDC) strongly oppose BSL’s. Some of their reasons include the inaccuracy of dog bite data, difficulty in identifying mixed breeds and it is costly and difficult to enforce. Dogs end up suffering from these laws because owners may their hide pets resulting in no vet care, no licensing, they get restricted exercise and socialization, no spay/neuter, no vaccinations and no microchipping.

A person is guilty of animal cruelty in the first degree if they intentionally inflict substantial pain, cause physical injury, kill an animal by means causing undo suffering or manifest extreme indifference to life. If a person forces a minor to do the same, they are also guilty. Animal cruelty in the first degree also includes starving an animal, dehydrating an animal and suffocating an animal resulting in suffering or death. Animal cruelty in the first degree is a class C felony resulting in 1-10 years in prison depending on the state. They could get fined up to $100,000 in Oregon. Fines range from $1000- $10,000 in most states, California’s fine is up to $20,000 and $25,000 in Illinois. In Washington, the maximum fine is $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison. Washington State is in the process of creating an animal abuse registry. The bill details and constitutes what “animal abuse” is and defines the term “abuser”. An abuser is anyone over 18 or a minor that is convicted of animal cruelty.

The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966. It is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. Other laws, policies, and guidelines may include additional species coverage or specifications for animal care and use, but all refer to the Animal Welfare Act as the minimum acceptable standard.

Animal fighting was brought to the nation’s attention by the highly publicized conviction of NFL star quarterback Michael Vick. In 2007 the investigation started into animal cruelty and dogfighting on Vick’s Virginia property. From 2001-2007, Vick, his associates and Bad Newz Kennels brought in pit bulls from Virginia and other states. They put up tall fences and chained the dogs to car axles. The dogs were kept hidden and they were tested by fighting each other. The losers were killed by various means such as being shot, drowned, electrocuted, hung from trees or beaten to death. In August 2007, Vick and his associates pled guilty to federal charges. Vick admitted funding the dogfighting and gambling and admitted knowing four dogs were killed in 2002. He admitted knowing eight underperforming dogs in 2007 had been hung and drowned. Vick received two felony convictions related to engaging in torture, ill-treatment, beating and maiming, mutilation and killing of animals. In Vicks neighborhood, and all across the south, dogfighting is considered a tradition or hobby that has been done for generations. Many people who engage in these activities don’t think it is wrong. Most of our society and the law don’t agree.

In March 2017, 46 dogs were rescued from a South Korean dog meat farm and came to JFK Airport in New York. They were destined for animal shelters in New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Humane Society International was responsible for sponsoring their rescue.

The dogs were kept in deplorable conditions in Goyang, north of Seoul, South Korea in dungeon-like cages with no light, no ventilation, an eye watering stench of ammonia, barely enough food and no veterinarian care ever. It is estimated 17,000 dog meat farms still operate in South Korea. Even though the demand for dog meat has been falling, it is an accepted tradition and farmers find it hard to change their lifestyle. Up to two million dogs are eaten in South Korea each year. Those to be slaughtered include mixed and pure breeds. Since 2015, Humane Society International has rescued 800 dogs from seven farms in South Korea. They get money for rescues from private donations and help farmers find different work. The rescued dogs must be taken abroad for adoption as they are not wanted in South Korea as pets or companions. It is difficult work but the volunteers find it very rewarding to save these animals. The people of South Korea don’t understand why this is a problem. They have been eating dogs for generations. Trying to re-educate them has been slow and difficult.

The decision to spay or neuter a pet is extremely important. It can be the single best decision you make for their health and safety. There are homeless animals in every state In the U.S. There are between 6-8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year, with barely half of these animals getting adopted. Sadly, the rest are euthanized. These are healthy, sweet animals who would have made great pets.

In some states, there are as many as 300,000 homeless animals euthanized in animal shelters every year. These are not the offspring of homeless animals but are the result of unchecked breeding by family pets. Many people are surprised to learn that in America, more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year. Spaying and neutering is the only permanent, 100 percent effective method of birth control for dogs and cats. No pet owner should adopt an animal without spaying or neutering them first. Some people oppose spaying and neutering their pets because they feel that it will change their personality or it will cost too much. Some people don’t want to be told what to do with regard to their pet. But the facts are that spaying and neutering reduce barking, roaming, aggression, urine marking and certain types of cancers. It is low cost and widely available and reduces unchecked breeding and more unwanted animals in the world. This is the most important reason to spay and neuter your pet.

As a society, we can take positive and realistic steps towards ending dog abuse in many ways. People can get laws passed or changed to protect animals. Laws can be made stronger and tougher on criminals. Many animal abuse convictions are felonies with fines and jail time. Animal abuse registries need to exist in all states, not just a few. Research has shown that people who abuse animals will eventually commit larger crimes and harm people. Another area that people can get involved with to make a difference is to volunteer at animal shelters and spay and neuter clinics, foster rescue dogs and adopt from shelters. Become involved in your community and speak out whenever you see abuse. People can donate money to local, national and international organizations dedicated to helping abused and homeless dogs. Education is the key to making people aware of dog abuse and how they can be part of a solution. Education about the importance of spaying and neutering is the most important factor. We have come so far in our collective efforts to prevent dog abuse, but we are not finished. There is still more work to be done. Harsher punishments for animal abuse are needed in all 50 states. We need more awareness locally and nationally of the needs of abused animals. More people need to care and get involved. Most importantly, everyone needs to be aware of the absolute necessity of spaying and neutering your pet. This is the number one thing all people can do to prevent dog abuse, abandonment and neglect. Spaying and neutering stops the addition of unwanted animals to our world. A society that values all life, including animals, is a much healthier and happier society than one that tolerates abuse and where cruelty is rampant.

Works cited

  1. “Breed-Specific Laws State-by-State.” – Some Dogs Don’t Let Go, Lynn Media Group, 28 July 2017,
  2. ‘What is Breed-specific Legislation?’ ASPCA,
  3. Southern California Public Radio. “Event: Dangerous Breed: Dog or Man?” Southern California Public Radio, 21 Aug. 2013,
  5. “United Kingdom: Standing up for Puppies.”
  6. Tigers | IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare,
  7. “Animal Welfare Act.”United States Department of Agriculture,
  8. “Case Study: Animal Fighting – Michael Vick.” Animal Legal Defense Fund,
  9. “Why You Should Spay/Neuter Your Pet.” The Humane Society of the United States,
  10. “Why Spay/Neuter Is Important.” Humane Society International,
  11. “Spaying and Neutering: A Solution for Suffering.” PETA, 19 Apr. 2018,
  12. Associated Press. “46 Dogs Rescued from Korean Meat Farm Arrive at JFK.” NBC New York, NBC New York, 26 Mar. 2017,


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