Lt. Governor, State Officials Highlight CTDCF and CTDOAG Partnership To Prevent Child Abuse and Animal Cruelty
April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month
(Newington) - Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, state and federal officials and animal welfare advocates today discussed the connection between animal cruelty, child maltreatment and other forms of interpersonal violence.
Referred to as “The Link”, mounting evidence from researchers indicates a strong correlation between animal abuse, child abuse, intimate partner violence, and elder abuse. Officials highlighted the prevalence of maltreatment types across our state, the coordinated agency responses for protection, and Connecticut law requiring "Cross-Reporting" as outlined in state statute since 2011.
“The overlap of child abusers and animal abusers is significant. I am thankful for the leadership and partnership of the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Agriculture in addressing these horrific offenses with a proactive, collaborative response. Our administration will continue to work with agencies to report, condemn, and prevent mistreatment and abuse," said Lt. Governor Bysiewicz
“Animal cruelty is hideously inhumane and a significant signal of child abuse and domestic violence. These intertwined scourges must be stopped. Protecting children and animals from abuse requires action, not just words— strong laws and strict enforcement,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal.
"Research tells us there's an inherent connection between violence toward children and animal cruelty - When animals are abused, children and adults are at risk; when adults and children are abused, animals are at risk. Cross reporting is the gateway, a bridge, that allows us to be proactive about addressing the 'The Link' through training, education and collaboration. We are grateful to be part of this team effort with the Department of Agriculture and our advocacy partners," said Department of Children and Families Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes.
Expanded in 2014, the Cross Reporting requires Department of Children and Families (DCF) staff and state, regional, and municipal Animal Control Officers (ACO) to work together to “cross report” to the Department of Agriculture (DOAG) Commissioner when they reasonably suspect that animal cruelty and child abuse and neglect has occurred. Conversely, as part of this law, DOAG is mandated to forward all animal cruelty reports to DCF for assessment and possible commencement of an investigation to determine the safety of children in the home who may have been exposed to animal cruelty.
“We have seen demonstrated increases in animal cruelty reports over the past few years, due in part to increased education and outreach, which serves as a reminder of the importance of the cross-reporting requirements to ensure the wellbeing of children who may also be present in those environments,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “This would not be possible without the municipal and state animal control officers working to ensure the safety of animals and collaboration with our partners at the Department of Children and Families."
Education and awareness about "The Link" is being offered statewide and a comprehensive Cross Reporting training was developed for community providers, and DCF staff. Additionally, Paws for Kids is a partnership between CT DCF and the animal advocacy community to promote child and animal well-being through education, cross-reporting efforts, marketing, and establishing Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) for DCF children with trauma.
As a result of education and training efforts by both DCF and DOAG, there has been a noticeable increase in animal cruelty reports being made - an increase of 51 percent between 2019 and 2021. In 2021, the cross-reporting percentage increased to 42 percent which can be attributed to the collaborative efforts and partnership between DCF and DOAG.
A partner in these efforts, Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates is a group of volunteers committed to impacting animal welfare legislation and raising public awareness regarding the statistical connection between animal abuse and domestic and social violence.
"We have noticed an increase of the use of the cross-reporting law in the past year thanks to DOAG and DCF educating police and animal control departments. Approximately 40% of the cases we see are animal cruelty cases involving domestic violence. Sadly, those are only the reported cases," said Robin "Zilla" Cannamela, President and Co-Founder of Desmond’s Army.
"The Connecticut Humane Society was founded by a high school student 142 years ago as a means for serving children and pets in need, and is now the oldest and most comprehensive animal welfare organization in the state. Today, we are grateful to bring awareness to animal cruelty and how this connects to many other forms of cruelty, often, unfortunately affecting children as well. CHS is proud to work with other great community leaders to highlight the need for a collaborative response to these problems," said James Bias, Executive Director at Connecticut Humane Society.
A review of research studies shows:
- Animals were harmed in 88% of homes where a child was physically abused.
- 75% of female survivors of domestic violence report their pets were threatened or intentionally harmed by their partner.
- Children exposed to domestic violence are three times more likely to be cruel to animals
- 45% of caseworkers working with the elderly encountered animal abuse or neglect co-occurring with elder abuse.
Members of the public can make a report of animal cruelty directly to the local Animal Control Department in the town where the concerns have been noted or by calling (860) 713-2506 as well as via e-mail at AGR.AnimalControl@ct.gov. Those wishing to make a report can remain anonymous.
A reasonable suspicion of child maltreatment can be made to the Child Abuse and Neglect Careline by dialing 1-800-842-2288. The Careline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Callers to the Careline can remain anonymous.