WASHINGTON, DC, May 20, 2019 – The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) endorses the Child and Animal Abuse Detection and Reporting Act of 2019, introduced by Representatives Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) and John Katko (R-NY). This legislation would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to require that data collected by the federal government from state child protection agencies include information about animal abuse as a risk factor for child abuse. 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,” said Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs for AWI. “In a violent household, companion animals are often victims of the very same abusive behaviors that also harm children, intimate partners, and vulnerable adults. Often, the first person to identify a child in a dangerous situation is 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.”

As authorized by CAPTA in 1988, the 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 had a substance abuse disorder, that help researchers and service providers better understand the factors associated with child abuse. Animal abuse is one such known factory that currently is not considered.

“As a mother and a pet owner, I am deeply disturbed by the degree to which child and animal abuse co-occurs” said Rep. Kuster. “Our government must do more to protect both our children and the four-legged members of our families. I am proud to introduce this legislation that will direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to gather information and analyze cases where both kids and pets are abused. Having this information will enhance our understanding of both of these abhorrent behaviors and will provide a better foundation for screening, prevention, and treatment programs.”

“There is an unfortunate correlation between animal and child abuse, with perpetrators often engaging in both of these heinous acts,” said Rep. Katko. “Animals and children do not deserve to be mistreated, and we have a responsibility to do a better job tracking the behaviors of abusers. This bipartisan legislation does that, by directing the Department of Health and Human Services to study cases where both of these abuses occur. Doing so will help protect children and animals from future abuse.”

Information collected under NCANDS has been used to determine, for example, that children whose families face multiple stressors are at a higher risk of being repeatedly referred to CPS, and that some types of maltreatment are more likely to recur than others. By tracking child abuse cases related to animal abuse as provided for under the Child and Animal Abuse Detection and Reporting Act of 2019, NCANDS would provide another valuable tool to help identify the need for prevention and intervention.

For more information about the link between violence against animals and violence against humans, please visit: https://awionline.org/content/children-and-animals-risk

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.