There are many reasons why individuals abuse animals. Animal cruelty covers a wide range of actions (or lack of action). Learning about animal abuse has revealed patterns of behavior employed by abusers.

Animal cruelty is often broken down into two main categories: active and passive, also referred to as commission and omission, respectively.

Passive cruelty is typified by cases of neglect, in which the cruelty is a lack of action rather than the action itself. Examples of neglect are starvation, dehydration, parasite infestations, allowing a collar to grow into an animal’s skin, inadequate shelter in extreme weather conditions, and failure to seek veterinary care when necessary.

In many cases of neglect in which an investigator believes that the cruelty occurred out of ignorance, the investigator may attempt to educate the pet owner, then revisit the situation. In more severe cases, exigent circumstances may require that the animal be removed for veterinary care.

Active cruelty implies malicious intent, as when a person has deliberately and intentionally caused harm to an animal, and is sometimes referred to as NAI (Non-Accidental Injury). Acts of intentional animal cruelty may be indicators of serious psychological problems. There is an intrinsic link between battered pets and battered women and children. The likelihood that women’s shelter personnel will encounter women and children who have been threatened by batterers using animal abuse as a weapon is high. This is because more families in America have pets than have children. Secondly, the majority of pet owners are themselves parents with children. Thirdly, 64.1% of households with children under age 6, and 74.8% of households with children over age 6, also have pets. Lastly, as many as 71% of pet-owning women seeking shelter at safe houses have reported that their partner had threatened and/or actually hurt or killed one or more of their pets; 32% of these women reported that one or more of their children had also hurt or killed pets. Battered women report that they are prevented from leaving their abusers because they fear what will happen to the animals in their absence. Animal abuse sometimes is used as a form of intimidation in domestic disputes.

Pet-abuse.com. Retrieved 2008-11-06
Pet-abuse.com. Retrieved 2010-03-17
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