Petrarca-introduced bill would use child abuse-animal cruelty connection to fight abuse

HARRISBURG, April 22 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca has introduced a bill that would provide more protections against child abuse, while at the same time cracking down on animal abuse.

The bill (H.B. 2007) would require the cross-reporting of these types of potential abuse cases.

Petrarca said there are a number of studies that connect animal abuse to family violence. A survey of pet-owning families with substantiated child abuse found that animals were abused in 88 percent of the homes.

"My bill would be another tool in the toolbox in the fight against child abuse," said Petrarca, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "It's widely acknowledged that animal abuse can be a precursor of violence against a person, so it's not a stretch to require those tasked with investigating animal abuse to report anything they may see or suspect regarding child abuse when they are performing their job.

"And, as with animal control or humane society officers, the duties of child welfare workers often take them into people's homes where they may witness or see signs of animal abuse. We need to take advantage of all of the resources available to us to fight abuse."

Under the bill, animal control and humane society police officers would be added to the list of mandated reporters -- those who are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse -- while social services employees would be required to report possible cases of animal abuse.

"Law enforcement and animal and child welfare agencies have increasingly recognized the benefit of working cooperatively to stop abuse. Several states already require this type of mutually beneficial cross reporting, while others require animal control to report suspected child abuse or child protection services to report animal abuse," he said.

Connecticut, Illinois, West Virginia and the District of Columbia specifically require this type of cross reporting; California, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia and Maine require animal control to report suspected child abuse, while Massachusetts, Louisiana, Nebraska and Tennessee child welfare employees must report animal abuse.