Children’s Reports of Domestic Animal Neglect & Abuse


The joy that animals bring to the world

It is unfortunate that some people are unable to recognize the happiness that animals bring to the rest of the world. Both in my professional capacity as a social worker in the field of child welfare and in my volunteer work in the field of animal welfare, I have had the opportunity to observe the emergence of personalities, including those that may or may not develop a fondness for animals.

In my experience, young children naturally have a soft spot for critters. When people are trying to raise money for animal charities outside of department stores or grocery stores, I often see this. When a parent walks out of a store with their child in tow, the child will invariably tug on the parent’s coat and say something along the lines of “Mommy, mommy, we have to give…” when the parent is asked if they would like to make a donation to help homeless animals. Depending on how the parent reacts, a clear message is sent, which is likely to be repeated many times over, that animals either deserve care or do not deserve care.

There are aspects of children’s personalities that are susceptible to being eroded by the influence of society. Those who have faith in psychic abilities assert that children are born with extrasensory abilities, but these abilities are typically stifled because the general public does not believe that such abilities are real. Consider a second, more common example, which is laughter. A child will laugh approximately 300 times each day by the time they are old enough to attend nursery school. Consider this in light of the fact that adults laugh an average of 17 times each day. Undoubtedly, children will lose things as they go along.

Sadly, a significant number of children go through more difficult circumstances than the average child does during their formative years. In varying forms and to varying degrees, neglect and abuse are experienced by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children. Due to the fact that there were 872,000 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect in the United States in 2004, there are currently over half a million children residing in foster care at any given time.

In 88 percent of homes where there was child abuse, animal abuse also occurred (usually at the hands of a parent), according to the findings of a survey of families who owned pets and had allegations of abusing or neglecting their children. According to the findings of another study of women who sought refuge at a safe house, 71% of those who had pets reported that their partners had threatened, injured, or killed their companion animals, and 32% of mothers reported that their children had injured or killed their pets.

The anthropologist Margaret Mead issued a warning when she said, “Getting away with killing or torturing an animal is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child.” Albert DeSalvo, also known as the “Boston Strangler,” who was responsible for the deaths of 13 women, used to practice his archery skills by shooting arrows through orange crates that contained cats. Carroll Edward Cole, who would go on to become one of the most prolific killers in modern history, committed his first act of violence when he was a child: he strangled a cat. Albert Schweitzer, a humanitarian, once said, “Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea that human lives are worthless.”

Reports of animal cruelty in the home that are made by children should be taken very seriously. Abuse of animals, whether it be by a parent or a child, is a red flag that the child may be in danger of being abused themselves. Child abuse can be prevented with early intervention, but animal abuse can also be a sign that child abuse is already taking place and should alert authorities. Some kids who won’t talk about their own abuse will talk about what’s happening to their animals or their friends’ animals. If a child mentions mistreating pets or other animals in the home, the child should be questioned further to determine whether or not the child is also being mistreated. In addition, it is recommended that the local animal welfare agency be contacted so that they can investigate the care that is being provided for the animals in the home.

Laws that make mandatory cross-reporting a requirement can be found in a few different states. If there are animals present in the home, a report of child abuse must also be filed with the state’s animal protection agency in the states listed above once it has been determined that child abuse has occurred. On the other hand, if authorities charged with animal protection discover evidence of animal abuse in a household that also contains children, then a concurrent report must be filed with the agency responsible for child protective services. In the past, this kind of legislation has been discussed in the Connecticut legislature; however, the legislature has never actually passed a law of this kind. Studies that show the direct connection between animal and child abuse indicate that the time has long since come to reconsider the legislation governing this type of abuse.

Indeed, it is unfortunate that some people are unable to recognize the happiness that animals bring to the rest of the world. There are explanations for this, and those explanations are not arbitrary. A child picks up what he or she sees, and a child’s eyes are always open to what’s going on around them. The only way for a child to comprehend the significance of animals is through the education that they receive, and there are numerous opportunities for education on a daily basis.

For the sake of the animals,
The Honorable Gregory M. Simpson

Over the course of his more than 25 years of involvement in animal welfare work, Gregory Simpson has held positions of leadership for a number of organizations in the state of Connecticut and has been a state advisor for the national organization Friends of Animals. He is a member of the Cat Writers’ Association in addition to being selected by CAT FANCY magazine as one of the most passionate cat lovers in the United States.

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