Bill Identifies Animal Abuse as Child Abuse Risk Factor

To facilitate better information about the co-occurrence of child abuse and animal abuse, Representatives Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) and John Katko (R-NY) introduced the Child and Animal Abuse Detection and Reporting Act of 2019. Recognizing that animal abuse is a risk factor for child abuse, the bill provides that information on animal abuse would form a new category in a federal database compiled from reports furnished by state child protection agencies. Weighing this additional factor can help identify opportunities to prevent both child and animal abuse or suggest when more specialized intervention is needed.

The link between violence against animals and violence against humans is well established. In a violent household, companion animals are often victims of the very same abusive behaviors that harm children, intimate partners, and vulnerable adults. The first person to identify a child in a dangerous situation may well be a law enforcement officer responding to an animal cruelty call. There is an urgent need for more complete information about these patterns so that social service providers can understand how to intervene safely and effectively.

The US Department of Health and Human Services established the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) to compile information from the states about the nearly 700,000 American children abused annually. Case reports in NCANDS include a variety of details—such as the type of abuse a child suffered or whether the caregiver has a problem with substance abuse—that help researchers and service providers better understand the factors associated with child abuse. Animal abuse is one such known factor that currently is not considered. By tracking child abuse cases related to animal abuse as provided for under the Child and Animal Abuse Detection and Reporting Act, NCANDS would provide another valuable tool to help identify the need for prevention and intervention.

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