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I'm in Canada (Vancouver, BC). I used to live in a basement suite, below my landlord, who was verbally abusive towards her live-in employees. I was told by one of these employees that the landlord makes her dogs sit on the couch and hits them with a wooden spoon if they jump off, which sounds like animal abuse. I want to report it to the BCSPCA now that the employee in question (the only one likely to have known about this) has moved out and is not in danger of any kind of retaliation, but there are a few things I'm worried about:

  1. Does this qualify as abuse? The signs of abuse listed on https://spca.bc.ca/faqs/how-do-i-report-animal-cruelty don't apply -- the dogs look healthy. As far as I've seen, the landlord otherwise takes care of them. She may just be weird and controlling of them, and have the wrong idea of how to discipline them. Maybe I or the employee misunderstood what's happening?
  2. If it's abuse, how can the SPCA prove it? Like I said, there are no signs of abuse.
  3. What if their investigation makes her even more aggressive to her dogs out of anger? Or if they take her dogs away, is she going to become abusive towards her employees?

The best-case scenario is that the SPCA visits, scares the hell out of her, and she never does it again, but I'm really worried that's not going to be what happens. What would you say to my concerns? What should I do?

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Thank you for caring about the dogs. I've been on both sides of this argument, i.e. I, too, disagree with the way some people treat their pets but others disagree with the way I treat mine. We will never all agree on the details; the bottom line is that helpless animals don't suffer needlessly. I will respond to your three questions individually.

1. Does this qualify as abuse? The signs of abuse listed on https://spca.bc.ca/faqs/how-do-i-report-animal-cruelty don't apply -- the dogs look healthy.

I read "How to recognize an animal in distress" at the link. In #3 I found this:

a guardian physically abusing an animal by hitting or kicking.

Hitting a dog with a wooden spoon would count as hitting an animal.

Also, if the dogs were kept on the couch all the time and not allowed to access food or water or to relieve themselves, it would count as abuse as described in (a) Deprived of adequate food, water, and (a.1) Kept in conditions that are unsanitary.

2. If it's abuse, how can the SPCA prove it? Like I said, there are no signs of abuse.

I would let the SPCA do their own investigation and figure out how to prove it if I thought the animals were being abused. Before I reported it, however, I would try to be fairly certain the animals were actually being abused.

3. What if their investigation makes her even more aggressive to her dogs out of anger? Or if they take her dogs away, is she going to become abusive towards her employees?

These are valid concerns. However, if she becomes more abusive toward her dogs, the SPCA can still step in.

Regarding her abuse of her employees. You said she was already abusive of them. She might get even nastier and her employees will then have to take whatever action they deem appropriate. Animals are not able to do this.


I can't tell you what you should do. I know what I would do. Since the dogs do not appear to be suffering but look cared for and healthy, I would not report it. Also, it happened a long time ago and the employee who told you about it is no longer there to testify. All of this taken together makes your case extremely weak.

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