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October 29, 2014

Animal Cruelty Facts and Statistics

Statistics on the victims and current legislative trends

  • Continuous chaining is illegal in some parts of the country, and is cruel everywhere. Photo by Chad Sisneros/The HSUS

  • The neglect found at puppy mills has garnered prosecutions in many cases. Photo by Paul Turner/The HSUS

  • Extreme confinement of farm animals is abusive, and some states are phasing it out. Photo by The HSUS

The shocking number of cruelty cases reported daily on television and the internet and in newspapers is only the tip of the iceberg. Most cases are never reported, and most animal suffering goes unrecognized and unabated.

Although there is no national reporting system for animal abuse, media reports suggest that it is common in both rural and urban areas.

Cruelty and neglect also cross socio-economic boundaries.

Based on media reports, we can review animal cruelty in terms of:

Unless otherwise noted, the following statistics are compiled from pet-abuse.com.

Most Common Victims

In media-reported animal cruelty cases, dogs—and pit bull-type dogs, in particular—are the most common victims of animal cruelty. Of 1,880 cruelty cases reported in the media in 2007:

  • 64.5 percent (1,212) involved dogs
  • 18 percent (337) involved cats
  • 25 percent  (470) involved other animals 
  • Reported abuse against pit bull-type dogs appears to be on the rise: in 2000–2001, pit bull-type dogs were involved in 13 percent of reported dog-abuse cases; in 2007, they were involved in 25 percent of reported dog-abuse cases.


  • According to the American Horse Council, Americans own more than 9 million horses, up from more than 6 million in the mid-1990s. Backyard breeding fueled the boom in pet horses. Of the more than 2 million Americans who own horses, more than one-third have a household income of less than $50,000.
  • Neither the total number of horse neglect cases nor the percentage of total animal abuse cases classified as horse neglect has risen since the closure of all U.S. horse slaughter plants.


As HSUS investigations into slaughterhouses and cattle auctions have revealed, animal abuse abounds in the factory farm industry. Despite increased feed prices, we found no indication in the news media that the number of livestock neglect cases is increasing, other than a few shocking high-profile cases. This may, however, simply be a reflection of the weak protections afforded to livestock under state animal cruelty laws.

  • Many states specifically exclude livestock or any "common" agricultural practices from their cruelty laws. Even when good laws exist, it can sometimes be difficult to convince law enforcement to make an arrest and/or to seize livestock who are being neglected or abused.
  • Over the past few years, the number of reported animal neglect cases involving cows and pigs has dipped slightly.
  • In 2007, there were 20 reported neglect cases involving cows and eight involving pigs, down from 33 cow neglect cases and 11 pig neglect cases in 2006 and 26 cow neglect cases and nine pig neglect cases in 2005.

Domestic Violence

Government data on domestic violence cases reveal a staggering number of animals are victimized by abusive partners each year. The HSUS estimates that nearly 1 million animals a year are abused or killed in connection with domestic violence.

  • About 2,168,000 women and men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the U.S. every year (U.S. Department of Justice, 2000).
  • 63 percent of U.S. households own a pet (APPMA, 2006).
  • 71 percent of domestic violence victims report that their abuser also targeted their animal (Ascione, 1997).
  • In 2007, 7 percent of media-reported animal cruelty cases either occured in the context of a domestic dispute or involved a person with a history of domestic violence.

Legislative Trends

  • 50 states currently have felony provisions within their animal cruelty laws. 
  • Before 1986, only four states had felony animal cruelty laws: Massachusetts (1804), Oklahoma (1887), Rhode Island (1896) and Michigan (1931). 
  • Three states enacted felony laws in the 1980s, 19 in the 1990s and 25 more since 2000 (including the District of Columbia).

First vs. Second Offense

  • Forty-three of the 50 state felony provisions are first-offense provisions.
  • Six have second-offense felonies (Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio and Pennsylvania have felony laws that apply only on the second offense; Texas and Virginia have second-offense felonies, depending on the situation).
  • Idaho has a third-offense felony animal cruelty law.
  • Within the 43 states that have first-offense felony cruelty laws, several have a first-offense provision for aggravated cruelty, torture, companion animal cruelty, etc. in addition to a second-offense provision for cruelty to animals.

States Finding Second-Offense Laws Inadequate

  • In the last decade, at least six states have enacted second- or third-offense felony animal cruelty laws, only to readdress and upgrade them to first-offense laws within a few years: 
  • Alaska (third in 2008, first in 2010)
  • Indiana (second in 1998, first in 2002)
  • Kentucky (second in 2003, first in 2007)
  • Nebraska (second 2002, first in 2003)
  • Tennessee (second in 2001 and 2002, first in 2004)
  • Virginia (second in 1999, in 2002)

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