Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse, animal neglect or animal cruelty, is the infliction by humans of suffering or harm upon any animal. Animal abuse and neglect has many negative effects on a dog’s personality and behavioral traits and some of those effects can last a lifetime. An abused animal fears humans. Because of that fear, they are more likely to bite and attack not only people, but other animals as well. Numerous studies show that fearfulness towards humans and other animals is closely coupled with aggression toward them. Abuse causes fear, and fear leads to aggression as a conditioned response. Abused dogs will try to defend themselves whenever they identify a possible threat. An abused dog may attack people or other canines. However, there are usually factors that triggers this behavior and it will differ from dog to dog, depending on what makes him fearful. The triggers may include: A sudden gesture, raising your hand, raising your voice at the dog or other people, touching the dog in a wounded or scarred area, the use of different objects, or even a word or tone of voice used by
the former owner. These study results provide further evidence that aggression in dogs, is often motivated by fear caused by mistreatment. However, aggression can also be the result of a genetic tendency, poor socialization, a brain injury, and any injury that causes aggression as a response to pain. Depending on how old the dog was at the time the trauma was caused it can affect him for the rest of his life, even if the dog is relocated to a new home. It is often difficult to teach an abused animal to trust humans again. When a dog is abused, their mind cannot process or understand what they have done wrong. This can cause many trust issues with the dog believing all humans will treat them this way. An abused dog may often be found hiding in a place he considers safe. This behavior may also be triggered by fear.
The dog will be afraid of being hurt or beaten again, so they prefer to hide. Studies show that around 65% of re-adopted dogs who have been abused have been returned to shelters because the new owner is unable to properly gain back the trust of the dog. With a lot of love, time, and care, abused dogs can learn to trust again. The process can take years and the dog may never fully recover. However, it can be rewarding to make even a little bit of difference in their mental, or physical health and happiness.According to research, abused dogs displayed higher levels of 8 main behavioral characteristics. Excitability, hyperactivity, fearful on stairs, attachment, attention-seeking, rolling in feces, fear or aggression toward other dogs or people they don’t know, continuous non-stop barking, and repetitive behaviors such as hoarding, digging, sucking pillows or running in circles. Behavioral evaluations of dogs who had been abused were obtained using the Canine Behavioral Assessment, which utilizes scales to rate the frequency of a dog’s behaviors. The studies showed that “Sixty-nine dogs ultimately met the criteria for inclusion in the study, and
when compared with a convenience sample of 5,239 companion dogs, abused dogs were reported as displaying significantly higher rates of these traits” (Francis 1).Physical effects are relatively short-term issues, but the resulting mental effects can cause more pain and suffering, with the damage lasting a lot longer. Just as people suffer mental and emotional effects from abuse, so do dogs. Even after cuts, bruises and broken bones have healed, the psychological suffering can continue causing a lifetime of suffering. Most animal cruelty laws only cover the immediate physical harm that abused animals suffer, because it’s hard to see or measure the emotional and mental aspects. In fact, a multitude of studies have shown that, “emotional and mental harm is even more excruciating than physical hurt, and when animals are forced to choose, they would rather endure physical pain.” (Mental Effects on an Abused Dog 4). It is the obvious physical marks of abuse that tend get our attention: the scars, the broken bones, the emaciated bodies. What gets far less attention, if we notice it at all, are the psychological scars.
Emotional abuse is far more difficult to see. Yet it may ultimately cause more suffering and do more lasting damage to an animal. When you chose to get a dog, you know how strong the canine-human bond can be. But just like with other humans, developing a strong connection with your dog takes time and effort. Therefore, if you do not have the time, space, or heart to have a dog, don’t. Always remember, if you witness or suspect animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, you should contact animal control immediately or call 911.