Animal Cruelty and Neglect: Prevalence and Community Actions in Victoria, Australia
Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, the University of Melbourne, Animal Welfare Science Centre, North Melbourne, VIC 3051, Australia
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Victoria, Burwood East, VIC 3151, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 November 2019 / Revised: 5 December 2019 / Accepted: 9 December 2019 / Published: 11 December 2019
Preventing animal cruelty and neglect is the goal of animal protection. But it is hard to effectively address a problem without a good understanding of its prevalence and nature. While 55,000–60,000 reports of mistreatment are made to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Australia each year, we do not know how well these data reflect what is actually happening in the community. After all, these data are reliant on people reporting what they see and therefore, probably only represent a fraction of what is actually occurring. To better understand this problem, we conducted the first extensive community survey to find out what people had seen in their communities and what they did about it. We found that animal mistreatment was (1) common, with 25.7% of people surveyed witnessing mistreatment, (2) mostly neglect with perceived underweight animals being the most common issue and (3) underreported to authorities with only 9% of witnesses reporting to RSPCA Victoria. While sobering, these findings are the first step to developing and resourcing well-informed strategies to prevent the mistreatment of animals.