bad with = unskilled with, mean to= unkind to.
I don't know which is the correct translation but they are definitely different.
Putting the definite article in definitely sounds wrong in English. There aren't some specific animals the speaker has in mind; they are talking about animals in general which receives a definite article in many romance languages (eg French).
I don't think "bad to animals" is permitted in my own form of English. It sounds like something a small child might say, but not an adult. Couldn't say about American English.
The definite article in English is wrong if they are talking about animals in general. As the sentence is out of context the article may have its place if they are talking about a specific group of animals. You are right when you refer to romance languages where the article is used in both cases.
What about "cruel" for mau? I was marked wrong. I knew that mau translated to "mean," so thought "cruel," being a synonym in English might also be a correct translation. I agree that in English "bad" would be better understood as "not skilled" vs "mean" or "cruel" which are understood as willingly doing some bad thing(s).
Next time report it and see if DL will decide to accept it, though 'kind' is a different word in Portuguese, gentil or amavel. DL is trying to become more accepting of British English. It's helpful for us speakers of American English to know that 'mean' has a different meaning across the pond. British programs are quite popular here among certain groups of people.
Can COM and PARA be used interchangeably to convey the same meaning?
- Ele é mau com os animais. / Ela é má com...
- Ele é mau para os animais. / Ela é má para...