April is Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month

If you spotted an act of cruelty against an animal, would you know what to do?

That's a tough question for many people: Should you confront the alleged abuser? Wait until you can call the police? If you do, do you risk reprisal? Or perhaps you're not entirely sure if the treatment constitutes abuse.

To help educate the public, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has made April "Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month." People are urged to spend time this month to educate themselves and others about existing animal cruelty laws and to support pending legislation.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that make intentional cruelty a felony charge. Intentional abuse is just that – hitting, choking, kicking, deliberate starvation, etc. Unintentional abuse comes from ignorance; the abuser does not know how to care for the pet. In many states, unintentional abuse can lead to misdemeanor charges

Animal abuse has received a lot more attention in recent years because it often signals abuse toward people. Children who abuse animals often abuse people later in life. By knowing how to spot abuse, you may be able to help people as well.

If you suspect someone is abusing a pet, don't confront that person directly. This is for your own safety, and the long-term interest of the pet. Call the police or your local animal control officer.