It's a scenario no one wants to think about: Witnessing a dog being mistreated. Unfortunately, it does happen. So what should you do if you witness such a situation?
What constitutes mistreatment?
Animal cruelty laws vary by state. Generally, the definition of animal cruelty involves knowingly inflicting pain or suffering upon an animal, or neglecting them to the point of causing suffering.
What should I do?
If you witness an instance of violence that needs urgent attention, call 911 or your local animal control agency immediately. The Humane Society states that it's extremely important to call authorities as soon as possible, as violence toward animals is often part of a large pattern of abuse (which sometimes extend to humans).
There's also the scenario of suspecting someone of mistreating dogs or other animals, but in a less immediate way. For example, you might suspect someone of animal hoarding, or not providing their dog with adequate veterinary care. If this is the case, document the situation as best you can, with times and dates, photographs, and any other evidence you can safely gather. When you've gathered evidence, call the police or your local animal control office. If you're not sure who to contact, here's a list of local law enforcement agencies.
If your area lacks an animal welfare agency, or if your local authorities are unequipped to deal with animal cruelty cases, call the Humane Society and ask to speak with one of their experts about suspected animal abuse. They can help determine what steps you should take.
After you've reported suspected abuse to a local authority, make sure you follow up with them to ask about the outcome. Consistently following up with authorities can make a big difference in cases like animal hoarding and can save lives.
What shouldn't I do?
If you can avoid it at all, don't try to confront the suspected abuser yourself. They may become aggressive or violent, and most private citizens don't have the tools or training to deal with animal abusers. Involve the authorities as quickly as you can — they have what's needed to deal with the situation.
WOOF: Do Dogs Forgive?