Source: SPCA

If you are concerned that an animal may be in distress, do not ignore it. Your actions could help save a life. In addition to protecting the animal, you may also be protecting children or adults at risk of being harmed.

An animal is in distress according to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act) if it is:

  • Deprived of adequate food, water, shelter, ventilation, space, care or veterinary treatment;
  • Injured, sick or in pain or suffering; or
  • Abused or neglected.
How to recognize an animal in distress

Please note, the following has been provided to assist the public in recognizing signs that an animal is in distress and requires assistance. Warning: graphic photos are included and viewer discretion is advised.

1) Thin and emaciated

Extremely thin, rib bones and hip bones are visible. This could indicate starvation or illness. (View Photo Example – caution: graphic)

2) Little to no access to shelter, food or water

All companion, farm and captive wildlife should have access to food, water and shelter from the elements.

This dog was left outside at all times without access to clean water, food or shelter from the elements.

This cat was forced to live in this kennel at all times. Cat litter was used as bedding.










3) Wounded or injured

May have an obvious wound or be limping. Or a guardian physically abusing an animal by hitting or kicking.

4) Coat in poor condition

Could indicate a flea or tick infestation. (View Photo Example – caution: graphic)

5) Hair badly matted

Can cause distress to an animal. (View Photo Example – caution: graphic)

6) Overgrown or neglected nails or hooves

View Photo Example – caution: graphic

7) Untreated infections

Another site to check out

Source: HBSPCA

Fight Animal Cruelty

At the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA, one of our primary functions is to prevent cruelty to animals and protect and rescue animals from dangerous situations. Our inspectors and agents are appointed under the Ontario SPCA Act and have the authority of a police officer while enforcing the laws of Canada and Ontario that pertain to animal cruelty.

All too often, our officers come across severe cases of animal cruelty, hoarding, abuse and neglect. In some cases, the owners willingly surrender their animals to our animal protection officers and once they are deemed medically healthy and behaviourally sound by our staff, the animals are adopted out to new loving homes. But other times, our officers must seize animals and lay charges against the pet owner. In these cases, our animal protection officers bring the case before the courts and the animals remain in our custody until the case is completed.

In 2010, our officers executed 11 warrants, laid 37 charges, issued 94 orders to comply, removed 183 animals, answered 74 community assistance requests, conducted a whopping 2397 rechecks.

Sadly, the animals pay the price of human cruelty. Forty-one animals had to be euthanized due to extreme behavioural or medical issues resulting from a cruelty investigation or community assistance request.

If you observe any animal you believe is not receiving proper care, phone (905) 574-7722 ext. 401 or email us This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

All complaints will be investigated and documented on a priority basis. The results of our investigations are strictly confidential and will not be released under any circumstances.

Our officers don’t respond to after-hours emergency calls. In these cases, call City of Hamilton Animal Control at (905) 574-3433, Burlington Animal Control at (905) 335-3030 or your local police.

What constitutes animal cruelty and neglect?

Animal cruelty and willful neglect occurs when someone intentionally injures or harms an animal or when a person willfully deprives an animal of food, water or necessary medical care.

Here are some signs that may indicate abuse or neglect:

  • tick or flea infestations;
  • wounds on the body;
  • patches of missing hair;
  • an extremely thin, starving animal;
  • limping;
  • an owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal;
  • an animal left unattended in a vehicle;
  • dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, and often chained in a yard;
  • dogs who have been hit by cars or have other medical conditions and haven’t been taken to a veterinarian;
  • dogs who are kept outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions;
  • animals who cower in fear or act aggressively when approached by their owners; and
  • large numbers of animals living in extremely unsanitary conditions.

We’ve compiled a glossary of terms related to animal cruelty.

What information should I have on hand when I make a report of animal cruelty?
  • A concise, written, factual statement of what you observed giving dates and approximate times whenever possible to provide to law enforcement.
  • Photographs of the location, the animals in question and the surrounding area. However, please do not put yourself in danger! Don’t enter another person’s property without permission, and exercise great caution around unfamiliar animals who may be frightened or in pain.
  • The names and contact information of any other people who have firsthand information about the abusive situation.

Please note:
Under the OSPCA Act,
18.1 (1) Every person is guilty of an offence who:
(f) Knowingly makes a false report to the Society in respect of an animal being in distress. 2008, c. 16, s. 16

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