Animal neglect happens way too often, and it's not always as apparent as you'd think. There are many types of neglect that occur (and might even be in your own neighborhood right now). Since I work in an animal care center, I mostly see the aftermath of neglect situations. I think the biggest way we can help these animals, is by paying attention to our surroundings and recognizing some telltale signs.
Let me give you an example. Perhaps you've noticed that a dog in your neighbor’s backyard has been there for a few days. That might not seem like a big deal, right? According to Michigan State Law, dogs that are kept in a yard must be provided with shelter, food and water. These requirements help the dog stay nourished and safe from the harsh elements of weather changes. If you notice that dog is frequently in the yard, without food, water or shelter, it's time to contact your local Animal Control.
Your first thought might be to bring out some food and water, or make a little 'house' for it to sleep in. This can seem like a happy medium versus getting involved personally. Unfortunately, these types of actions allow the neglect to continue. If another neighbor calls Animal Control to report the pet owner, the officers will come out to evaluate if the dog has proper living conditions. If they see a food & water dish in the yard (even if it's not from the owner), they won't notify the owner about their conduct. This puts the dog at a further disadvantage, because the officers must first issue a warning to the owner before they can physically transport the dog to safer conditions. Without these procedures in place, the animal will wait that much longer before getting the help it needs.
Many Animal Control centers can take your information confidentially to avoid you getting involved. It's extremely important to report any neglect to them and let the officers handle it, instead of you. It may seem mean if you don't help the animal, but in the long run it's much worse for them since their environment can't be changed without the assistance of Animal Control.
Another common result from animal neglect is feral cats and stray animals roaming throughout your neighborhood. This can seem like a very overwhelming problem, because most of these animals aren't spay/neutered, which contributes to animal overpopulation. Again, you might think it’s a good idea to provide food and water for these animals. This merely encourages them to continue their current lifestyle, leaving them susceptible to disease (and spreading it to your pet!) in addition to dangerous conditions such as getting hit by a car, etc.
The best (and safest) thing to do when you see a loose animal is to call the Animal Control and have them pick the animal up. If you are able to trap the animal in your garage or a carrier, that will make it easier for the officer to transport the animal. At the Oakland Pet Adoption Center, plenty of people come in with stray animals they've found. These animals are dropped off at no charge to you, and during that time we will vet check and evaluate them, to process them into our adoption center.
While most people want to help when it comes to animal neglect, sometimes our first instinct is not the best. Keeping the local authorities involved will not only help keep you and your family safe, but ultimately provide the best outcome for the animal. These animals cannot say ‘help me’ to us. It is up to us to be observant and aware of our surroundings, and to take the necessary precautions to help animals from living a life of neglect.