Animal abuse occurs more frequently than most people realize.
From domestic violence on companion animals to neglect, inhumane experiments, and abuse inflicted on wildlife, millions of animals are mistreated each year in the U.S. alone.
These shocking animal abuse stats can show you just how bad the situation is, and why we should all fight to stop cruel practices.
Animal Abuse Key Facts
- Chickens are the world’s most abused animals. Over 55 billion chickens endure routine suffering every year while raised for meat and eggs.
- Each year, over 110 million animals are killed in U.S. laboratories.
- Each year, over 10 million companion animals die from neglect in the U.S. alone.
- The overall prevalence of animal cruelty in U.S. adults was 1.8% – about two in 100 people.
- About 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.
- Around 71% of pet owners entering domestic violence shelters report their batterer has abused family pets.
- Nearly 9,000 species are at risk of extinction due to wildlife trafficking and trading.
39 Animal Abuse Statistics & Facts
1. Over 110 million animals are killed in the U.S. laboratories each year
All over the world, government-approved animal abuse is the first cause of mortality among various domestic species. According to PETA’s animal abuse statistics, over 110 animals are killed each year in experiments in the U.S. alone.
However, the U.S. isn’t the only country that allows experiments on animals.
In 2021, there were 3.06 million procedures conducted on lab animals in the UK. Canada used 5.07 million animals in experiments in 2020, and over one million animals were held captive in laboratories in the U.S. or used in experiments in 2019, excluding mice, rats, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
2. Approximately 6.3 million companion animals enter the U.S. shelters each year
A pet is for life is a powerful slogan used by many animal organizations to bring awareness on abandonment. Yet, it looks that many people still have to learn that truth, as about 6.3 million pets enter U.S. shelters each year according to ASPCA animal abuse statistics.
While that number is huge, the Society admits that it has declined from 2011, when statistics showed an abandonment of about 7.2 million companion animals per year.
Cats seem to be abandoned more frequently than dogs, as 3.2 million of these animals are felines. Since 2011, the biggest decline was in dogs, from 3.9 to 3.1 million.
3. Approximately 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized in the U.S. each year
In addition to statistics on animal abandonment, the ASPCA also analyzed how many animals in shelters are euthanized each year, and the numbers are staggering.
Apparently, approximately 920,000 never get out. That’s because only 4.1 million shelter animals find a new home each year.
The numbers, once again, look bad for cats. From the total of animals euthanized yearly, about 530,000 are cats and 390,000 are dogs. It doesn’t come as a surprise that most animals adopted from shelters are dogs.
4. Pet abuse occurs in 88% of families investigated for physical abuse on their children
According to the Humane Society abuse stats, 20 men and women are assaulted each minute in the U.S. In a survey, 71% of domestic violence victims reported that the abuser also targeted their pets.
Moreover, a separate survey revealed that pet abuse is also prevalent in families under investigation for suspected child abuse.
Apparently, pet abuse occurred in 88% of these families.
5. Up to 250,000 animals are victims of hoarding each year
Animal good intentions lead to animal abuse, especially when caring for pets becomes hoarding.
Animal hoarding happens when someone has so many pets that it can’t possibly provide adequate care to all of them. Think of crazy cat ladies and people who can’t help themselves from offering shelter to abandoned animals they come across.
The problem is that these animals live in precarious and unsanitary conditions, and they rarely receive the care they need. In the U.S., it is estimated that up to 250,000 animals are victims of hoarding each year.
6. In 47% of animal control reports involving children, the child was the perpetrator of animal abuse
In a pet abuse study on the well-being of children and animals, researchers found that an estimated of 70% U.S. households have at least one animal companion.
Pets are more common in households with children aged seven or older, but not all kids treat their four-legged companions kindly.
Around 47% of animal control reports involving children turned out to be reports about children being perpetrators reported by neighbors or passerby, family members, or friends.
However, in only 35% of cases a child was the sole perpetrator of the abuse. In the majority of cases (54%), children were engaging in acts of abuse along with peers, and in 12% of cases, at least one adult was present.
7. Dogs are more likely to be abused by children than cats or wild animals
In the same study on the well-being of children and animals, researchers also investigated the types of animals that children would abuse.
According to research, 62% of all acts of abuse were inflicted on dogs and 23% on cats. Wild animals were more often abused along with peers or adults, making up 15% of all cases.
The most likely reason for those stats is the presence of dogs in most households with an animal companion. In fact, out of 90.5 million households with a pet, 69 million have a dog and only 45.3 million have a cat.
8. Nearly 1 million animals are abused or killed in episodes of domestic violence
Cases of animal cruelty and neglect can happen in any household, but they tend to be more prevalent in families reported for domestic violence.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, nearly 1 million animals are abused or killed in episodes of domestic violence each year, in the U.S. alone.
Not only that, but animal companion abuse statistics show that abusers also hurt animals in their household to control their family members, including spouse and children.
9. Over 25,000 greyhounds are bred each year for racing, and most are abused
Greyhound racing supplies the betting industry with hundreds of million dollars each year, even if it only is legal in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia. Behind the sports façade, however, thousands of animals are abused.
To supply the tracks with enough racers, enthusiasts breed over 25,000 greyhounds each year in the U.S. alone. Meanwhile, at least 5,000 former racers are killed each year, while over 15,000 have been injured while racing or training.
As if these abuses weren’t enough, dogs are also pumped with anabolic steroids before races or drugged so that they can race despite being injured. Racing isn’t the only form of sports abuse on animals, illegal fighting being another one.
10. Over 2.6 million dogs in U.S. originate from commercial breeders or puppy mills
Greyhounds aside, dog breeding is a profitable business for people without morals. The government estimates that there are over 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S. that churn out over 2.6 million dogs each year.
Problems linked to puppy mill abuse vary from the violence against adults to neglected or sick puppies.
Females are generally kept in miserable conditions in cages that are too small and with little medical care. Moreover, many of these dogs are killed by breeders.
In January 2023, for instance, USDA fined an Iowa breeder over $12,000 for euthanizing unwanted dogs with unauthorized injections.
11. Almost 9,000 land-based species are at risk of extinction due to wildlife trading
Domestic animals and animal companions are not the only ones subject to abuse. According to scientists, wildlife trading is one of the most common types of abuse on wild animals – and one that puts over 9,000 species in danger of extinction.
Poaching, trafficking, and trading targets a variety of animals for a myriad of purposes. Some are killed for their skins or meat, some are mutilated for their horns or tusks (such as rhinos and elephants), and some are trapped alive and sold as pets.
These practices don’t target mammals only either. For instance, 66 species of parrots are nearly extinct due to poaching for the pet industry. The same is true for amphibians and reptiles.
12. Circus animals spend virtually 96% of their lives in chains or cages
Circuses that use animals not only contribute to wildlife trade and poaching, but are also responsible for other forms of animal abuse.
According to circus animal abuse statistics, the animals used for show spend virtually 96% of their lives in chains or cages, sleeping, eating, and defecating in the same space.
Animal cages or box cars have no climate control either, the trapped animals suffering from extreme temperatures during summer and winter.
According to the United States Animal Welfare, every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the minimal standard of care.
13. Illegal trade for Asian circus-style shows removed 22,218 great apes from the wild
Beyond traditional circus shows, new circus programs involving great apes were developed in Asia in recent years. To develop the show and please the public, circuses have turned to animal trafficking.
According to United Nations Environment Program statistics, 22,218 great apes have been removed from the wild for this sole purpose between 2005 and 2011. From the total, around 64% were chimpanzees and 56% orangutans.
Many of these young apes were traumatized by the capture, and many have died along the supply chain. Because most great apes become unmanageable as they age, many are “retired” to tiny cages or killed to make room for new arrivals.
14. About 75% of zoos offer animal-visitor interaction programs disregarding animal welfare
It is universally known that animals suffer in zoos, but zoo animal abuse statistics reveal that 75% of zoos and aquariums that are members of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums offer animal-visitor interactions while disregarding animal welfare.
Most of these interactions involved big cats being used in gladiator arena setups, dolphins used as surfboards, chimps – clothed and wearing diapers – driving scooters, and elephants playing basketball.
While people may find these activities fun to watch, they involve the same cruel training techniques used in circuses.
15. Over 3,000 dolphins are trapped in cruel captive conditions at tourist entertainment venues
Considering the ticket costs to dolphin shows in aquariums and other entertainment venues, a single dolphin can generate an annual revenue between $400,000 to $2 million for these places. It doesn’t come as a surprise that most hold more than a dolphin.
In fact, marine life cruelty statistics show that around 3,000 dolphins live in entertainment venues around the world. These cetaceans are trapped in cruel captive conditions, including small and overcrowded tanks.
They are also deprived of food as a training method and are given no real mental stimulation.
Dolphin calves born in captivity are also separated from their mothers at a very young age, before they can learn how to survive in the wild on their own.
16. In 2021, more than 1,400 dolphins have been killed in Faroe Islands in only one day
The Faroe Islands hits the news year after year as animal cruelty organizations try to stop the dolphin and whale hunting practice.
It isn’t sure whether this tradition will be banned, and meanwhile, more than 1,400 dolphins have been killed in just one day, back in 2021.
Sustainable whaling statistics from the Faroese government – if they can be defined sustainable – estimate that beyond dolphins, about 600 pilot whales are killed in the Islands each year.
17. The fishing industry kills nearly a trillion animals worldwide each year
Beyond cruel traditions, the fishing industry is also responsible for animal abuse. In fact, most of the fish consumed today comes from inland or ocean-based aquafarms.
These fishes spend their time in confined tanks or tightly packed environments, suffering for up to two years in waters with high levels of ammonia and nitrates. Due to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, many of them are infected with parasites that feed on their gills or organs.
Meanwhile, commercial fishing kills nearly a trillion marine animals each year, according to marine life abuse statistics.
Since humane slaughter acts don’t apply to fish, most of them are killed in atrocious ways, including suffocation in smaller fish or even clubbed to death in the case of tuna and swordfish.
18. Fish caught and then returned to water often die of shock
Catch-and-release fishing is a popular sport seen by enthusiasts as “humane.” Yet, there is nothing humane according to wildlife cruelty statistics.
Experts claim that the vast majority of fish caught and then returned to water suffer severe psychological stress and often die of shock shortly after. Injuries caused by fishing gear also cause pain in those fish that manage to survive for a longer time.
PETA claims that it is impossible to quantify how many fish are killed in this sport, but we’re likely talking about thousands.
19. Approximately 100 million animals are killed for their fur each year
Fur coats have kept people warm for centuries but today, there is hardly anything that can justify the cruelty of the fur industry. According to PETA animal abuse stats, about 100 million animals are killed each year for their fur.
Animals in fur farms spend their whole lives confined in small cages where they are underfed and beaten. Then, they are bludgeoned, hanged, and bled to death or even skinned alive.
About half of the real fur in the U.S. comes from China where it is often intentionally mislabeled, as most of the skinned animals are dogs and cats.
20. Bear bile farming cruelly exploits about 24,000 Asiatic black bears
Asiatic black bears are a vulnerable species threatened with extinction. Bear bile farming, alongside habitat reduction, is one of the main threats for this species.
According to World Animal Protection stats, about 24,000 of these animals are confined in small cages and used in bile farming. Bile farming refers to the collection of bile from live bears through very painful techniques.
These animals have to endure daily agony during bile collection, but their suffering doesn’t end here.
Living conditions in these farms are precarious to say the least. Many animals suffer from infections, parasites, and a variety of other conditions.
They seldom receive vet care, while their bodily fluid is sold on the traditional Chinese medicine market.
21. Between 7,000 and 8,000 tigers are killed to produce illegal traditional medicine
Black bears are not the only ones to suffer in the name of traditional medicine.
According to animal cruelty statistics from the University of Copenhagen, between 7,000 and 8,000 tigers are raised in basements and killed to produce illegal traditional medicines each year.
The staggering detail is that the number of tigers held in these farms is almost twice the number of tigers left in the wild.
Tiger bone glue, which is produced by dissolving tiger bones in a high-pressure cooker for two to three days, sells for about $6,818/lb. ($15,000/kg). Thus, it is no wonder why these illegal farms are still in business.
22. More than 19,000 cats are abused in U.S. laboratories each year
Educational and research laboratories in the U.S. use and kill millions of animals each year. Around 19,000 of those are cats, according to PETA animal cruelty stats.
Many of these cats were homeless animals betrayed by a dysfunctional shelter system. They end up in universities or research centers for use in invasive and painful experiments, or to schools for cruel classroom dissections.
They either die during these experiments or are killed shortly after.
23. Factory farms torture and kill 97% of animals each year
Many people enjoy steak, but very few stop and think about the animal cruelty stats behind them. What many might not know is that 97% of animals in factory farms are tortured and killed each year.
For instance, in pig farms, sows are kept pregnant continuously and kept in crates that are barely large enough for them to stand up and lie down. There is no way the animals can walk or turn in those enclosures.
Cows are also kept in crowded pens and barns. Beef cattle are branded with hot irons, transported in loud trucks, and sold at auctions before being slaughtered.
Dairy cows are separated from their calves right after giving birth and spend most of their lives indoors.
24. Approximately 40,000 dogs were used in lab experiments in the U.S. in 2021
According to USDA animal stats, laboratories across the U.S. reported having approximately 43,000 dogs in 2021.
About 3,000 of these dogs were used for breeding according to reports from these labs, leaving us with 40,000 animals that have been used in experiments.
The situation isn’t that different compared to cats and other animals used in labs – they suffered atrocities before being killed. However, the actual numbers might be higher.
According to the Humane Society, about 60,000 dogs are used in experiments each year in the U.S.
25. Delaware has the highest rate of animal cruelty in the U.S.
Despite having some of the most severe penalties for aggravated cruelty in the United States, Delaware has the nation’s highest animal cruelty rate.
The latest FBI reports refer to 2018, when the state recorded 113 offenses for each 100,000 people.
About 56.6% of households in the state have pets, which can be rehomed through domestic violence protective orders. Penalties also include up to eight years in imprisonment and fines determined by a court.
26. Chickens are the world’s most abused animal
When thinking of animal cruelty in farms, most people envision pigs and cows. However, chickens are actually the world’s most abused animal.
According to animal abuse stats, about 50 billion chickens are raised for meat every year. These birds have a very short life of only about six weeks from hatch to slaughter.
This is possible due to selective breeding and optimized diets that allow them to grow many times faster than they would in normal conditions.
Egg chickens don’t have a much better life. They often live and die in battery cages that are barely large enough to allow them to turn.
Since there is no use for roosters in this industry, hundreds of millions of male chicks are gassed right after hatching in both battery and free-range farms.
27. At least 75% of pet lizards die within a year from becoming a pet
Reptiles, including snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises, are becoming more and more popular pets. Before getting one, know that over 75% of them die within one year of becoming a pet according to pet cruelty stats.
That’s because reptiles are not domesticated animals. Even when kept in “ideal” conditions, they will inevitably experience some level of suffering.
For instance, the vast majority of these animals don’t like being touched or handled, and they don’t do very well on a pet shop diet.
Depending on where they come from, some of these animals also have to hibernate during winter. A disrupted cycle leads to various health problems and premature death.
28. Fishing gear injures or kills over 650,000 marine animals each year
Sports fishing and the fishing industry not only impact caught marine animals.
Abandoned fishing gear polluting the seas and oceans is responsible for injuring or killing over 650,000 marine animals each year according to animal abuse statistics from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
These animals, including whales, dolphins, seals, and turtles, get captured in abandoned or actively used nets and often die before being rescued.
Those that don’t die and somehow manage to get out of these ghost nets often suffer painful injuries that could lead to infections and death.
29. About 73 to 100 million sharks are killed annually for their fins
Shark fins soup is a status symbol food consumed throughout Asia at important events such as weddings and banquets.
Given the high demand, the precious fins sell at over $350 per pound, and the high price drives finners to catch more and more sharks.
According to shark cruelty stats from the Shark Research Institute, this means that up to 100 million sharks are killed annually just for their fins.
Once the fins are collected, the bodies of these animals are thrown overboard back into the water or disposed of through other means.
30. About 40% of pit bull terriers in shelters are euthanized each year
According to animal abuse statistics by Dallas Dog Rescue, about 40% of pit bull terriers abandoned in shelters are euthanized each year.
That’s because this is one of the most misunderstood dog breeds, often considered unreliable and dangerous.
Beyond abandonment, pit bulls are also one of the dog breeds most often used in illegal dog fighting. Apparently, thousands of dogs bred for fighting are killed or suffer severe injuries each year.
Pit bulls are also the most abused and neglected breed outside fighting.
31. Approximately 4,500 racehorses are slaughtered each year in Australia
Horse racing is one of the most popular and oldest sports in the UK and Australia. The general consensus for this sport is that the animals are well-cared for.
However, according to racehorse abuse stats in Australia, approximately 4,500 of retired racehorses are sent to slaughter each year.
Moreover, the same stats show that approximately 31% of thoroughbreds leave the sport due to illness or injury.
It goes without saying that even if fed well and kept in good conditions compared to other animals, racehorses are overworked and often exhausted. The physical and psychological stress can lead to premature death.
32. Over 23,000 horses have been slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption in 2021
While slaughtering horses for human consumption within the U.S. has been banned in 2007, the laws failed to ban their slaughtering for human consumption abroad.
And horse abuse statistics show that in 2021, slaughterhouses in the U.S. killed 23,431 horses destined for human consumption.
Most of them – 18,292 – were sent to Mexico, while the rest were sent to Canada. These aren’t the only countries that consume horse meat.
Some of the countries where eating horse meat is no big deal include Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, China, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan.
33. At least 20,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks
According to WWF stats, at least 20,000 African elephants are killed each year by poachers collecting their tusks for the ivory industry.
While the number of poached elephants has decreased in recent years, it is still high enough to threaten this species with extinction.
African elephants are currently listed are critically endangered, following declines over several decades due to loss of habitat and poaching practices.
34. Across Asia, over 3,000 elephants are used and abused for tourist entertainment
African elephants are not the only elephant species that is abused or killed. Elephants in Asia may not be targeted for their tusks, but over 3,000 of them are domesticated and used to entertain tourists and visitors, according to World Animal Protection stats.
Most captive elephants are used for high-demand elephant rides. Domestication involves physical and psychological suffering, while trainers also deploy cruel methods to control the animals while they are transporting people.
When not training or transporting people, they are kept in very poor conditions and fed low quality foods. The vast majority of these elephants die decades short of their natural lifespan.
35. RSPCA receives a call about animal abuse every 30 seconds
According to RSPCA animal abuse stats, the UK organization receives over 1 million calls about animal abuse each year – or about one call every 30 seconds.
Not all of these calls involve actual abuse, some of them reporting stray animals. Yet, the organization has investigated over 51,500 complaints and secured 751 convictions in court in 2021 alone.
Out of all reported incidents, dogs resulted as the most commonly abused species, followed by cats.
36. Up to 98% of saltwater fish sold in pet shops come from the wild
If you ever walked into a pet shop, you’ve likely seen gorgeous betta fish sold in tiny cups or flower vases. And while they do make for fine decorations, keeping them in those tanks is a more-than-cruel practice.
That’s because fragile tropical fish were born to dwell in seas and forage among coral reefs. They only seldom reproduce in captivity, meaning that over 98% of them get in the tank directly from the wild.
According to PETA statistics, the vast majority of fish in pet stores are sourced from Hawaii, Fiji, and Southeast Asia. Moreover, about 90% of saltwater fish sold in the U.S. are caught illegally using poison.
37. Between 3,000 and 15,000 silkworms are killed to produce just one meter of fabric
When thinking about animal abuse, very few people have in mind invertebrates, and even fewer even consider insects. However, insects feel pain just like vertebrates do, and many of them fall victim to animal cruelty and abuse.
One of the most abused species is the silkworm. These worms are kept exclusively in artificial habitats and, once the cocoon is done, they are boiled alive to remove them from the cocoon without breaking the thread of silk.
World Animal Protection statistics show that 3,000 to 15,000 silkworms are killed to manufacture a single meter of fabric.
38. Beekeepers can kill up to 80,000 bees each year
Silkworms are not the only abused insects. In fact, among the most abused ones are the bees kept in honey farms.
These insects responsible for the pollination of thousands of plant species face a struggling life after ending in the hands of inhumane beekeepers.
Despite efforts to produce honey, some farmers often collect all the honey from the hive and feed the insects sugar syrup or other subpar nutrients.
They can also kill or injure the bees through haphazard handling, and often clip off the wings of the queen to prevent hive splitting.
At the end of the season, some keepers even kill the entire hive, consisting of 20,000 to 80,000 insects, according to bee abuse statistics.
39. Approximately 550,000 wild animals are kept for wildlife selfies worldwide
In the social media era, very few can fathom going anywhere without snapping loads of pictures for Facebook or Instagram. And what can be cooler than a wildlife selfie with a cute sloth in your arms?
The truth is, that wild animals kept for tourist entertainment are abused by both their keepers and the tourists that take pictures with them. Baby sloths used for selfies in the Amazon, for instance, die after around six months due to stress or diseases.
Worldwide, about 550,000 animals are kept for tourism entertainment. A study on wildlife cruelty also revealed that 54% of 249 online attractions offered the possibility to handle animals for selfies or photos.
Animal Neglect vs. Intentional Cruelty
According to the Animal Welfare Institute, there are two types of abuse – neglect and intentional cruelty.
Intentional cruelty involves violent acts, such as beating or killing an animal, animal sexual assault, or animal fighting. Neglect is considered a passive form of abuse that involves inadequate care or living conditions.
The majority of these abuse forms occur independently. However, in 20% of intentional cruelty cases, the offense occurred with another type of offense, such as domestic abuse or violent crimes against people.
The co-occurrence of offenses against humans and animals only happened in 3% of neglect cases.
However, neglect and abandonment are the most common types of animal abuse cases in the U.S.
What Can You Do Against Animal Abuse?
Stopping cruelty to animals requires a joint effort, and while you can’t do it alone, you can play your part to prevent it:
- Be a responsible pet owner. If you decide to adopt an animal, you must take care of all its needs from adequate food and shelter to mental stimulation and healthcare.
- Respect wildlife in your areas and in any other areas that you are visiting. Don’t engage in trends that can cause animal cruelty, such as wildlife selfies. If possible, avoid zoos and circus shows.
- Set a good example and teach your children to have respect for animals.
- Report animal neglect and abuse promptly. Offer help to people who are overwhelmed to care for an animal companion and don’t neglect it on purpose.
- If possible, shelter an animal in need or consider providing a foster home to an abandoned pet. Foster homes can help previously neglected or abused pets to recover, increasing their chances of adoption.