Pet Cruelty and Neglect


Animal cruelty is defined as any intentional or repeated behavior that inflicts physical or psychological distress in animals, including, but not limited to, causing unnecessary pain, suffering, distress or death. It can often be difficult to understand how widespread pet cruelty and neglect can be because, unlike violent crimes against people, situations of pet abuse are not compiled by state agencies, and many states’ statute or definition of pet animal care is minimal or not well enforced.

Pet cruelty and neglect can be a broad category. It can include an individual inflicting intentional pain on an animal, hoarding behavior, organized cruelty like dogfighting, and more. Our organization focuses on how we can update inadequate state laws to increase a pet’s protection and require more severe or appropriate penalties, or how to create a better method of enforcement for laws that are adequate but not enforced.

Updating Inadequate Laws in the Midwest

There are animal cruelty laws in all 50 states that include some level of a felony provision or the most severe type of legal punishment. But many are outdated or require updating to be better. For example, Iowa is the only state in the country without a felony penalty for animal torture on the first offense. Or in Missouri, animal abuse is considered a misdemeanor, or the lowest type of legal punishment, unless the animal’s suffering is the result of torture or mutilation, or the defendant has previously been found guilty of animal abuse. Missouri is another good example of having an adequate law but little enforcement.

In 2010, the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act was passed to help stop puppy mills in the state. Despite having a decent law to strictly regulate commercial dog breeders and hold accountable those operating as a puppy mill, Missouri continues to be the number one state in the country for the volume of puppy mills because of the lack of enforcement of the law. It would require action on behalf of the Missouri legislature to investigate how the agency responsible for overseeing and inspecting dog breeding facilities in the state could be doing better, like increasing the number of inspectors, their budget, etc.

Pet animals can be better protected through updated legislation and enforcement of the law.

Stay Informed

Join us! Sign up to receive updates about our progress, how you can help, and more!