How Can You Confront A Family Member Who Is Neglecting Their Pet?
Updated: Sep 29
This is a question that can create both internal and external battles as you try to find a way to tell a family member that they are neglecting their dog whether they know it or not. It's really one thing to confront a stranger or even a neighbor but doing this with a family member should be taken with care and concern. There's almost nothing worse than having bad blood between relatives, especially those you see often.
The situation should first be approached with a kind hand, showing your genuine concern but openness to help and understand the situation. You don't want to come in full force with insults and acting like you're better than the relative you're trying to help. Your main concern SHOULD be on the animals and to help them, your approach is what could open the door. With that said, if the dog is in immediate danger, such as the owner is openly hitting or abusing the animal, call your local SPCA, humane society, or police department to assist in the matter. At that point, getting the animal out of a dangerous and possibly life threatening situation should take precedent.
But if the situation is more of "they leave the dog outside all the time, don't feed them enough, don't groom them, etc" then it's something that could be resolved with patience. First, try to open a discussion about the pet in a way that doesn't come across as harsh or insulting. You absolutely don't want them getting closed off and defensive because it's possible that you'll get nowhere.
Here is a sample dialogue of how to get started:
You: "I've noticed Fido is getting a little scruffy looking, when was he groomed last?"
Them: "He doesn't get groomed. I brush him sometimes."
You: "His coat and nails should really be trimmed by a groomer every 6 weeks with brushing in between. I can help you find a reasonably priced groomer around here if you'd like."
Obviously, some situations would be more drastic and need some more pushing. One example is dogs who live outside with minimal attention and might be covered in fleas and ticks. This is often known neglect and could take a little longer to resolve. Providing proof to the owner is crucial as they might need some hard examples that their dog is not being cared for. This is all only relevant if there's a chance they could change their ways. Showing that the animal is being harmed but not implying that the owner is at fault can help them take the next steps to providing proper care. If needed, ask for the support from another family member but without treating the owner like they're being ambushed.
Other forms of neglect include: not providing proper shelter, food and water, not grooming their pets, leaving injuries untreated, letting a pet become obese, crating for too long of periods or in too small of a crate, etc. It also doesn't apply to just house pets like dogs and cats. It applies to any animals in the care of the owner such as farm animals like horses and sheep.