How to Help an Abused or Neglected Dog

What should you do if you suspect a dog is being neglected or abused?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #48

Consider the Animal’s Realistic Options

You might consider, too, what the animal’s options are. My friend and colleague Viviane Arzoumanian offers the example of an elderly dog strongly bonded to a person who lets his coat get matted and doesn’t take him to the vet often enough. Are you doing the dog any favors if you remove him from that home and he winds up in a shelter instead? Most dogs find the shelter environment highly stressful; old animals are less flexible and resilient than the young, and less likely to be adopted quickly, or at all.

How to Report Animal Cruelty

You may or may not be able to help a particular animal, and that’s partly because the problem is bigger than any one person can solve. Here’s what the American Humane Association has to say about reporting animal cruelty: “Humane officers try to respond quickly to complaints, but get a lot of calls every day and can't always respond the moment you call.” What that sentence doesn’t say, but obviously implies, is that there aren’t enough humane officers to meet the need. Just as a random sample I happened across while researching this article: the humane law enforcement division of the Monmouth County, New Jersey, SPCA investigates 900 complaints a year and receives no public funding at all. This even though Monmouth County ranks 53rd in per capita personal income of all counties in the United States.

Many of us would agree that animals must have better protection than they have. Lobby, write letters to lawmakers, join groups that press the agenda you think is right. Sometimes you can’t help the animal right in front of you, but you can make it possible to help others, elsewhere, even if it’s years from now.

Send your questions and comments to dogtrainer@ quickanddirtytips.com, or call them in to 206-600-5661, and I may use them in a future article. You can also find me on Facebook, where I post links to articles and videos and respond to your questions. Thanks for reading!


The American Humane Association, “the only national organization dedicated to protecting children and animals,” offers advice on helping animals when you suspect neglect or abuse.

State statutes are available and searchable online. To find yours, search on [State Nam + state + laws. The state’s legal code will usually be the first hit. In searching the laws themselves, I’ve found “cruelty” to be the best search term. Bear in mind that your county and municipality may also have enacted relevant ordinances.

Pet-Abuse.com is a national database of animal abuse cases and a compendium of general information on the subject. Please be warned: it’s extremely distressing. Some of the legal information also appears to be out of date.

Here is a comprehensive list of sources of financial assistance for veterinary expenses. Bear in mind that, given the present economic climate, many will be overstretched

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).