Due to their intimate relationship with human beings, animals can experience abuse, especially in the family environment. Research on the variables involved in this topic is scarce in Latin America. The objective of this study was to identify the main types of animal abuse in Brazilian municipalities and to characterize animals and perpetrators in addition to identifying the socioeconomic factors associated with the incidents. The occurrences of animal abuse were analyzed from the records of the Police Station Specialized in Fauna Crimes Investigation Department of the Civil Police of Minas Gerais operating in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, from September 2016 to September 2018. Events involving cruelty to animals were categorized as active maltreatment, while acts of omission, which refer to neglected animals, were categorized as passive maltreatment, defined according to sets of nutritional, health, behavioral, and comfort indicators. Cruel crimes were the most frequently registered (45.7 %, 101/221), with intoxication and aggression being the most common types. Active maltreatment generated more deaths compared to passive maltreatment (OR: 3.900, 95 % CI: 1.873–8.588, p<0.05). Regarding abuse, dogs were the most affected animals (59.7 %, 132/221), followed by felines (14.9 %, 33/221), equine (5.4 %, 12/221), birds (5.8 %, 13/221), poultry (2.7 %, 6/221), reptiles (2.2 %, 5/221), and other groups of animals (9.0 %, 20/221). Adults were the most frequently reported (55.2 %, 122/221) age of abused animals. Cats were the main cruelty victims, with the highest chance of death (OR: 6.829, 95 %CI: 2.916–16.696, p<0.05) and were those who suffered most from intoxication abuse (OR: 4.72, 95 % CI 1.585–14.996, p=0.001). The perpetrators of abuse were predominantly males (66.8 %, 137/205) aged between 40 and 59 years (38.6 %, 53/137). Perpetrators of committing animal cruelty were 3.57 times more likely to be male and 2.5 times more likely to have no college education. The perpetrators of animal abandonment had a 25 times greater chance of being between 18 and 24 years old compared to the category between 40 and 59 years old and perpetrators of animal intoxication had 5 times greater chance of being also between 18 and 24 years old.
Among all victimized animals, dogs and cats were the most affected, probably due to their close relationships with humans. Understanding the profile of victims and suspects involved in neglect maltreatment and cruelty to animals is fundamental to the establishment of policies and strategies to prevent and restrain these activities.