How to spot signs of animal abuse and what you can do to help

Although animal abuse can be a touchy subject, it should always be taken seriously.

Maisy Phua

Self-proclaimed fashion icon, pomeranian mom and Paris Hilton fan.

Published: 12 May 2023, 1:53 PM

Animal cruelty is always tragic and heartbreaking, but it is still prevalent in society. According to a recent report by The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), there has been a 44 per cent increase in the number of animal cruelty and welfare cases it received in 2022.

Last month, a teenager was arrested after being caught on camera humping a cat and Singapore’s Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) shared a video of several men assaulting a reticulated python with pails, eventually chopping off its head.

These cases are just one of many animal abuse incidents reported in recent months. There are two main types of animal abuse recognised as criminal offenses in Singapore – animal cruelty and neglect.

A person commits animal cruelty if they cause unnecessary physical or psychological pain or suffering to any animal by beating, kicking, torturing, ill-treating, or terrifying the animal, make a sick, injured, or unfit animal work, or are involved in any business or incident related to animal fighting like dogfighting or cockfighting.

When a person is found guilty of animal cruelty, they will face a fine of up to $15,000, and/or imprisonment for up to 18 months for the first offense and fined up to $30,000 and/or jailed up to three years for continuous offenses.

According to Section 41C of the Animals and Birds Act, pet owners are under a duty to provide their pet with sufficient and appropriate food, water and adequate shelter. 

They are also required to ensure that their pet is protected from disease as well as injury. They should not cause them any unnecessary pain, injury, disease, or suffering.


Pet owners must also not abandon their pets and must make reasonable efforts to find and recover them if they go missing. PHOTO CREDIT: FERNANDO MATE VIA UNSPLASH


When a person is found guilty of neglecting an animal, they will face a fine of up to $10,000, and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months. In the case of continuous offenses, the offender faces a fine of up to $20,000 and/or imprisonment of up to two years.

Even though it is not in our power to fully prevent such atrocities against animals, everyone has a part to play to help our furry friends.

Here’s how to spot the signs of animal abuse and what you can do:

Signs of animal abuse

Indications of animal maltreatment can easily be overlooked, as in addition to more obvious red flags, indicators of abuse and neglect can be subtle.

Signs of pet neglect include changes in appearance. These include fur loss, dull texture, or mange in animals, or if they are abnormally skinny or sickly. 


Other indicators include obvious untreated wounds or injuries, as well as being left in a kennel or chained outside exclusively. PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN CIMA VIA UNSPLASH


Signs of animal abuse to look out for are if the animal frequently tucks their tail, flinches at human contact, has unexplained fractures or limping, displays unprovoked aggression, whining, or whimpering.

Animals who are overly submissive are also a cause for concern. Submissive behavior includes avoiding eye contact, rolling onto their backs and uncontrollable urination due to fear or anxiety. Furthermore, if they suddenly avoid any physical contact or attempts to bite or scratch when petted, they might be victims of animal abuse.

What you can do

Although animal abuse can be a touchy subject, it should always be taken seriously.

If you suspect or witness a case of animal abuse or neglect, it is recommended that you either immediately call the police or dial SPCA’s 24/7 hotline at 6287 5355.

Witnesses are also encouraged to take a video or picture of the suspect if it is safe to do so. Note down any distinguishing features of the offender, any clothing or accessories worn, any vehicle numbers, the exact location the cruelty took place, the animal and the surrounding area.

Bystanders should then forward all pictures and videos to the SPCA at and refrain from uploading them onto social media just to go viral, as these accusations might be untrue.

If the animal is dead, witnesses are advised to refrain from moving the body. The police, SPCA or AVS will handle it for further investigation. 

Young children can also potentially harm a pet, which is why it is important to educate them on good handling practices and animal respect in general.

In order to avoid incidents, young children should always be under close supervision when near animals, especially during play when children must be gentle with them.


Children should also be taught to leave animals alone when they are sleeping or eating, as well as if they show any signs of aggression or retreat from the child. PHOTO CREDIT: YERLIN MATU VIA UNSPLASH


Additionally, they should not approach unfamiliar animals, even if they seem friendly. Parents are encouraged to have their child ask them and the animal’s owner for permission if they want to pet or touch the animal.

If you know or suspect an older child is intentionally harming a pet as a means of coping with trauma or intense emotions, please seek professional help right away.

Educating the next generation is one of the most effective ways to prevent animal cruelty.  Instilling a sense of empathy and highlighting the value of life is essential when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

While it may be tough to report a case of animal abuse, especially if it involves someone you know, keep in mind that you may be a pet’s only shot at safety and a better life.

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