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Though many of us find it hard to believe anyone would intentionally harm a pet, animal abuse is a shocking and tragic occurrence. Before welcoming a previously abused animal into your home, it is important to understand this abuse and how it can affect your pet.

Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained animal abuse.

“Animal cruelty can either be deliberate injury or abuse to an animal,” Eckman said. “It can also be neglecting to care for an animal by failing to provide food, shelter, or water.”

Eckman added that abandonment, lack of veterinary care, malnutrition, and physical injuries all are considered abuse. Additionally, an animal is considered abused if it is living in an overcrowded environment or being used for animal fighting. In these cases, it may be appropriate to contact local animal control authorities so they can investigate and get an understanding of the abuse.

If an animal was previously abused, it could act shy or fearful of people or common objects. Even after the pet has been socialized with a new family, Eckman said rehabilitation of fearful behavior can occur. In this case, be patient with your pet and remember its difficult past. Only love and time will help your pet through the healing process.

Additionally, behavioral issues can develop in abused pets, including aggression, excessive barking and destructive and disobedient behavior. Owners who adopt previously abused pets should discuss the animal’s personality with the animal shelter. As always, Eckman said to carefully consider if you are ready to adopt a pet, especially one that may need training to eliminate bad behaviors.

However, just because an animal has had a rough past doesn’t mean the animal can’t live a happy, healthy life in a new household. If given the time and training, Eckman said a previously abused animal can still be a loving, loyal pet.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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