Cruelty/Abuse FAQ

What constitutes animal cruelty?

Animal cruelty occurs when someone intentionally injures or harms an animal or when a person willfully deprives an animal of food, water or necessary medical care. Here are some signs that may indicate abuse or neglect:

  • Tick or flea infestations
  • Wounds on the body
  • Patches of missing hair
  • Extremely thin, starving animal
  • Limping
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
  • Dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, and often chained in a yard
  • Dogs who have been hit by cars—or are showing any of the signs listed here—and have not been taken to a veterinarian
  • Dogs who are kept outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions
  • Animals who cower in fear or act aggressively when approached by their owners

Why is it important to report animal cruelty?

The SPCA Humane Law Enforcement team finds out about most instances of animal abuse in Luzerne County through phone calls from concerned citizens who witness cruelty in their neighborhoods. Without tips from the public and cooperation from complainants (willing to testify), many animals would remain in abusive circumstances, mute and unable to defend themselves.

Are there different types of cruelty?

Yes, there are. You don’t have to hit an animal to be cruel to him—depriving an animal of food, water or necessary medical care is neglect, which is a form of cruelty.

There are two general categories of animal neglect: simple neglect and gross, willful, cruel or malicious neglect. Simple neglect (failure to provide basic needs) is not always considered a criminal act, and can often be resolved by the intervention of local animal care and control or humane agencies, which may be able to offer resources and educate offenders on how to provide proper care for their animals.

Neglect can also be an indicator of “animal hoarding,” the accumulation of large numbers of animals in extremely unsanitary conditions, often resulting in the death of many animals and potentially serious health consequences for the people who are living with them. In many cases, individuals charged with animal abuse and neglect in hoarding situations have been found to have children or dependent adults living in the same conditions as the animals who are suffering.