Social workers may be the first visitors to the home of a person at-risk. While they usually conduct thorough assessments for abuse, cruelty, and neglect of these individuals, their training may not extend beyond the individual to their companion animal. Learning to recognize the basic signs of abuse, cruelty, and neglect of an animal is an important step in animal and human welfare. Not all pet owners have the capability or proper knowledge to care for their pets in a humane and safe way. Recognizing a pet’s behavior as well as assessing its home environment can help home visitors paint a picture of the level of safety for people and their pets.


Physical signs of abuse, cruelty, and neglect of an animal include:

  • Evidence of physical acts of violence initiated by a person
  • A tight collar on an animal that is embedded into its neck or that is causing an open wound
  • An open wound on the body or a visible ongoing injury that hasn’t been treated
  • Thinness or emaciation in the animal to the degree where you see an animal’s bones
  • An infestation of fleas, ticks, or parasites visible to the eye, or observed excessive scratching by an animal
  • Inadequate grooming, such as matted fur, a dirty coat, or long, unclipped nails
  • Heavy discharge from an animal’s eyes or nose


Environmental signs of abuse, cruelty, and neglect of an animal include:

  • An animal is tied up alone in an unclean area (inside or outside) for long periods of time, in all weather conditions, without food and water
  • An animal is in a small cage or overcrowded with other animals in the home
  • An animal is kept indoors or in a restricted area, with little to no opportunity to exercise or eliminate

If you observe or suspect animal cruelty in New York City, contact the New York Police Department by dialing 3-1-1. To report an animal abuse emergency in progress, call 9-1-1 immediately.