20 Startling Statistics About Animal Abuse and Neglect

From domestic animals to circus performers and from testing animals to the meat on your table — few people take the time to understand how individuals, businesses, and organizations abuse animals. The statistics are startling, especially when an overwhelming number of animal abusers also abuse humans. The numbers point to the fact that animal cruelty problems are people problems. The following list starts with domestic animals, and then moves on to a few facts about farm and circus animals, and includes information about legislation that has been enacted to help stop animal abuse. Veterinarians can find information, also, about their responsibilities with abuse cases.

    Dog in Car
  1. Sixty-eight percent of battered women reported violence towards their animals. Eighty-seven percent of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75 percent in the presence of the children. According to the American Humane Association, abusers kill, harm, or threaten children’s pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse.
  2. In 1997, Boston’s Northeastern University and the MSPCA did a study that found 70 percent of all animal abusers have committed at least one other crime and that 40 percent had committed violent crimes against humans.
  3. In 2001 a woman named Alison Gianotto of California began an online database of abuse cases at Pet Abuse, after her cat was stolen and set on fire. As of February 2005, the database listed information on 3,736 cases.
  4. In media-reported animal cruelty cases, dogs — pit bulls, in particular — are the most common victims of animal cruelty. Reported abuse against pit bulls appears to be on the rise: in 2000–2001, pit bulls were involved in 13 percent of reported dog-abuse cases; in 2007, they were involved in 25 percent of reported dog-abuse cases.
  5. According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), approximately five to seven million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately three to four million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats).
  6. In the United Kingdom, animal abandonment is up by more than 58 percent since 2008, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  7. In January, 2003, authorities discovered the worst case of animal hoarding in U.S. history. An elderly couple living in rural Malheur County, Oregon, was found to have more than 550 dogs in and around their home. The dogs were scattered around the property, with some living inside the home, some in pens, and some in abandoned cars. Many of the dogs were sick and mal-nourished. More than 100 had to be euthanized.
  8. While organized dogfighting activity seemed to decline in the 1990s, many law enforcement and animal control officials feel that it has rebounded in recent years. The Internet has made it easier for dogfighters to rapidly exchange information about animals and fights.
  9. Numerous attacks on people by tethered dogs have been documented. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 17 percent of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 were restrained on their owners’ property at the time of the attack. The book, Fatal Dog Attacks, states that 25 percent of fatal attacks were inflicted by chained dogs of many different breeds.
  10. Rhesus Macaques in Zoo

  11. Arsenic-laced additives are mixed into the feed of about 70 percent of the chickens raised for food, but chickens do not eliminate all of it in their waste. Legal battles continue on behalf of more than 100 plaintiffs in an Arkansas town with the second-largest chicken population in the U.S. Residents there have been diagnosed with arsenic poisoning [PDF] that has led to blood diseases and extremely rare types of cancer. Recently, the FDA conducted a study that did find traces of arsenic in chicken livers. FDA said Pfizer, the maker of 3-Nitro, will remove it from the market in July.
  12. It is estimated that on average it takes 1,000 dogs to maintain a mid-sized racetrack operation. In Massachusetts, which began keeping injury records in 2002, more than 800 dogs were seriously injured during races in just six years at two tracks, and more than 80 percent of the injuries were broken legs.
  13. Most pet store puppies (and 80 percent of the American Kennel Club’s business) come from puppy mills, mass-breeding operations in which ill, suffering dogs are kept in deplorable conditions. They breed between 2 and 4 million puppies each year.
  14. Over 25 to 100 million vertebrate animals were reported to be used for animal testing in US. Chimpanzees, monkeys, beagles, dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, birds, and farm animals were used for animal experimentation. The invertebrate number is still high as over 100 million of them are estimated to have been used for lab testing.
  15. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) animal testing programs subject animals to irradiation, burnings, bombings, wounds and decompression sickness. Every year, at least 320,000 primates, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, cats, and other animals are hurt and killed by the DoD. These experiments are reported to be the most painful and invasive conducted in the country.
  16. Under law, slaughtered cattle and hogs first must be “stunned” — rendered insensible to pain — with a blow to the head or an electric shock. Often, this stunning doesn’t always work properly. Enforcement records, interviews, videos, and worker affidavits describe repeated abuses of this method at dozens of slaughterhouses, ranging from the smallest, custom butcheries to modern, automated establishments.
  17. Former Ringling animal crew employees Archele Hundley and Bob Tom witnessed what they described as routine animal abuse in the circus, including a 30-minute beating of an elephant in Tulsa, OK, that left the animal screaming and bleeding profusely from her wounds. Training methods for animals used in circuses involve varying degrees of punishment and deprivation. In the United States, no government agency monitors animal training sessions.
  18. Elephants at Diergaarde Blijdorp

  19. From 1994 to 2005, at least 31 elephants have died premature deaths in the circus. Other circus animals who have died in an untimely manner include horses and lions.
  20. In the year 2000, the ASPCA, along with The Fund for Animals, Born Free USA and the Animal Welfare Institute, filed a federal lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The lawsuit contended that the circus’s treatment of its Asian elephants violates the federal Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, on December 30, 2009, the case was decided on behalf of the defense (Ringling’s owners, Feld Entertainment) based on lack of standing of the plaintiffs.
  21. In recent years, many states have focused their attention on animal abuse, neglect, and cruelty reporting by veterinarians, health care providers, and other social service providers. Currently, eleven states require licensed veterinarians to report certain suspected animal cruelty violations.
  22. In the last decade,at least five states have enacted second-offense felony animal cruelty laws, only to readdress and upgrade them to first-offense laws within a few years: Indiana (2nd 1998, 1st 2002); Kentucky (2nd 2003, 1st 2007); Nebraska (2nd 2002, 1st 2003); Tennessee (2nd 2001 and 2002, 1st 2004); Virginia (2nd 1999, 1st 2002).