Information for the Public
Why should I take animal cruelty seriously?
First of all, animals are sentient beings that can suffer and feel pain. People who own or care for animals have a responsibility to ensure their needs are met and minimize any suffering they may experience. Furthermore, cruel treatment of animals is deemed by our society to be unacceptable – that’s why we have laws that prohibit animal cruelty.
Another reason to take animal cruelty seriously is the growing body of evidence that links animal cruelty to human violence. Research has shown that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. Recent studies have also shown that often when animal cruelty occurs, there is also family violence – i.e., child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse.
What can I do about suspected animal abuse?
If you have cause to believe there is animal abuse occurring in your community, you should report it to the appropriate SPCA or humane society for your area. Discuss your concerns and observations – the staff who take the calls share your concern and will help to identify the nature of the situation and the appropriate response. Your call will be treated in confidence, though your name and contact information will need to be taken in case further information is needed. On rare occasions (if cases go to court) you may need to provide written or verbal testimony.
Outside of regular office hours, call the Alberta SPCA’s toll free number – 1-800-455-9003 – to get recorded instructions for how to proceed. If an animal is in immediate danger, call your municipal police or RCMP.
What happens when I make a complaint?
Each call may be handled in a variety of ways, depending on the nature and severity of the reported situation. Charges may be laid if warranted, or the situation may be resolved through educational means. Police are sometimes notified, for example, if there is evidence of possible child abuse.
What can I tell my children about animal cruelty?
Tell your children that animal cruelty is never acceptable. Children may go through a phase where they are curious about their effects on animals and may, for example, kill insects. This is a normal phase of discovery but presents an opportunity for adults to teach the value of other animal species.
Unless they have good reason, children should never be allowed to kill or harm animals without some consequences. Without intervention, children who abuse animals may be more likely to become involved in bullying, vandalism and other anti-social behaviours that may escalate to serious violence later in life.
Children who report witnessing violence of any kind should be listened to and have their statements taken seriously. If they report another child who is abusing animals, this should be reported to an animal welfare and/or social service agency.
Information for Victims of Domestic Violence
What can I do if my pet is being threatened?
If a pet is being threatened, you can take some steps to protect it before it is abused. One possibility is to remove it from the home; ask friends or trusted family members if they would be willing to care for your pet temporarily. You can also contact your local SPCA or humane society to see if any foster homes for animals exist in your community. You may need to contact a boarding kennel to make arrangements to have your pet boarded. Threats made against animals can be prosecuted under Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada. If you receive such threats, keep any evidence you may have (such as emails or voice mail messages) to hand over to police.
What can I do if my pet has been abused?
If a pet has been deliberately hurt, stolen or deprived of care, you can report it either to the police or to the appropriate SPCA or humane society. They will investigate the situation and take appropriate action.
Will an abuser only hurt the pet?
If someone punches, kicks, throws or hurts an animal in any way, that person has demonstrated the capacity for violence. You cannot assume that the violence will stop there. If your partner has harmed or seriously threatened your animal, you and your children may also be in danger.
What effect does animal abuse have on my children?
Some victims of domestic violence have reported that their children have become more aggressive after witnessing animal cruelty in the home. Children sometimes behave more cruelly to animals, and often become more hurtful to others (for example, bullying) or withdrawn and emotional. It’s important when talking to a counsellor that you mention any animal abuse that has occurred.
How can I keep my pet safe if I leave an abusive situation?
If you anticipate having your pet housed at a kennel or other facility, keep your veterinarian bills and pet licence receipt handy. Not only will they demonstrate up-to-date vaccinations, but they will also help prove ownership of the pet. If you are applying for an Emergency Protective Order, protect your animals by including them in it.