What To Do When Your Crappy Roommates Abuse Their Dogs

What To Do When Your Crappy Roommates Abuse Their Dogs

This week we have a pair of sad dogs that aren’t treated very well and a non-owner living in the same household who’s concerned for their well-being. Is there a way to save the pooches from abuse and neglect?

Photo: Vilmos Vincze

Some people have problems that require delicate advice from a qualified professional. Others just need a random guy on the internet to kick ’em in the teeth (with honesty, that is). I’m the latter. Welcome back to Tough Love.

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Note: I’m not a therapist or health professional of any kind. People ask for my advice and I give it to them. End of transaction. If you have a problem with it, feel free to file a formal complaint here. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with it.

Hey Patrick,

My roommates have two dogs that can barely stand each other. They are never bathed, played with, taken on walks, and have zero training…

The German Shepherd stays in her cage a lot of the day, even when they are home. It is because of those reasons that her aggression is growing. I have noticed this growing aggression since I started living with them and concluded she has no other outlet for her energy and is resorting to the only thing she knows.

Both dogs are female. But the Shepherd, who is younger, bit the other dog (a Catahoula Cur mix) three times now, and has punctured three separate wounds each time. The last wound probably needed a few stitches but my roommates don’t seem to understand how concerning this is.

I know they love the dogs, but their lack of responsibility and inability to care for them makes me so angry and I don’t know what to do about it. They have a one-year-old and another baby due in June, so I’m worried what will happen when the Shepherd’s aggression gets even worse! I want to say something to them, but I’m super passive. I don’t even know if it’s my place, and I doubt they will respond well to my concern. Please advise!


Concerned Roommate

Hey Concerned Roommate,

There are actually a couple of things you can do here, but it depends on how much you like dogs. If you’re super passive, you’re probably right that a full-on confrontation with them probably won’t go well. They will get defensive for being called out as bad dog owners, then find some way to make you feel bad for even saying something. So, let’s look at some other options.

The first one is you start taking care of these dogs yourself. Don’t get me wrong, the responsibility to care for these animals should not be on you – but these poor pups are in need of a hero. You could be that hero, if you’re up for it.

Ask your roomies if you can take them for walks (it’s good for you, too) and give them a bath every once in a while, then buy a bag of small doggy treats you can use to start training them to do basic things, such as sit. Chances are they will be more than happy to hand off the responsibility to you, and the dogs will love to finally get some attention.

If dogs aren’t your cup of tea, you need to place matters into more capable hands. There’s no doubt these dogs are being neglected and mistreated – being kept in cages, never cleaned, never walked, never given medical attention when hurt – so report it to a local animal cruelty authority. In fact, whether you want to help take care of these dogs or not, I think you should report this abuse.

No matter where you are, there’s sure to be a group dedicated to saving mistreated animals and getting them in the hands of people who will actually care for them. the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League, and even local police departments or animal control agencies should all be able to do something, or at least guide you. Do a few web searches for your area and see what you can dig up.

Fortunately, as a cohabitant, you’re in a good position for reporting abuse and neglect. For these reports to be taken seriously, you need:

  • A written statement of everything you’ve witnessed. If you can give dates, times and other specific details it’s even better. For example, give a thorough account of all the times the Shepherd bit the Catahoula Cur and they refused to seek medical attention for the dog’s wounds.
  • The names and contact information of anyone else who has witnessed incidents of abuse or neglect. Maybe you’ve had a friend or significant other over who has seen this stuff happen too?
  • Photographs of where they’re kept, the animals themselves, and any other evidence of abuse. This is vital, so make sure you snap some pics one day when they’re not around.

Once you have all that, you can file a fairly thorough report that will help those dogs one way or another. You can remain anonymous if you feel the need, but honestly, your roommates will probably know it was you, and it’s better to keep yourself a credible witness in case you need to testify. You could even plan to move out, then file your report right before you leave if you’re worried about the confrontation.

Whatever you decide to do, be brave and take action to help these desperate doggos out. If this couple is this terrible to their dogs with one baby around, imagine how bad it will get when there are two.

That’s it for this week. I probably didn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but sometimes what you need is some tough love. ‘Til next time, figure things out for yourself.


  • Why are the animals in cages all day? Are they scared the dogs will bite the baby? If so they should get rid of the dog. Or is this an apartment not a house with a (fenced) yard? It’s pretty horrible owning large dogs if you’re in a tiny space and don’t exercise them regularly 🙁

    Are the living conditions long term? Or are they temporary while they find a place? If it’s short term and the intention is to get a house with a yard in the immediate future I’d be less inclined to get in their face. If cramped living quarters are the likely future then something needs to be done.

    Just be prepared to lose your roommates over this if you do take action. Since they’re not likely to take it well if you go the nuclear route (reporting them for neglect). If they’re friends and not just roommates the best thing you could do would be try to talk with them about the animals before doing anything. Don’t start with “you treat them horribly”, try approaching it with tact, or as a passing comment “Fido hasn’t been out for a walk in a while” and see where that goes.

    Side note: What does “never bathed” actually mean? Literally never bathed or only bathed every few weeks? Because most dogs shouldn’t be bathed frequently (once a month is recommended for normal dogs).

  • How to bathe a dog in 2 steps.
    1 wait for rain.
    2 put dog in rain.

  • If you can discuss the situation with them without their getting their backs out of joint then that might actually be the best way to go as it may lead to lasting benefits for the dogs. It is going to be hard to tactfully start the conversation so yeah starting anything like “what can we do about the dogs being neglected” is going to go bad maybe you could start it something like (i’m just going to assume Lassie as the name for the one in the cage) “Lassie seems sad and it might be getting worse. What do you think we could do about it to make her happier” [can add] “maybe being happier might make her less aggressive too” This would be much less likely to start a fight because once you’ve raised ‘there’s a problem’ you are immediately putting them in charge of the ‘problem’, and adding in the something positive coming out of doing something rather than leave to situation the same old, same old.

    Reporting, from experience, definitely needs some evidence to go with it otherwise it’s simply a case of your word against theirs. We reported our neighbours for their dangerous aggressive dogs but when the block came to investigate they were actually inside (bloody rare occasion) and after speaking to us he then spoke to them, naturally their version of events was different to ours so the investigator couldn’t do anything.

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