A Survey Of Child Welfare Workers On Animal Cruelty
This study is based on 121 surveys completed by child welfare workers, more than a fifth of whom (22%) reported having worked on cases that involved animal cruelty. The author describes how the observations from this survey can help other child welfare workers understand that animal cruelty is an indicator of further domestic violence.
Twenty-two percent of the child welfare workers surveyed indicated they had been assigned child maltreatment cases where there was a subsequent disclosure of animal cruelty. It is becoming more widely recognized that there exists a relationship between animal cruelty and family violence. Frequently, animal control officers involved in removing a companion animal from a house, come across evidence of child maltreatment. Partnerships are beginning to evolve between animal welfare organizations and child welfare organizations to examine the connection and overlap of cases.
The focus of this research is to answer the question: What is the prevalence of animal cruelty in the cases of families served by the State child welfare organization? A survey was distributed to family service workers, intake workers, and juvenile probation officers inquiring about cases involving animal cruelty. A total of 500 surveys were mailed with 121 returned. The questions address the ways in which animal cruelty is identified, the time and manner which disclosure occurs, coexisting issues, types of animals and injuries, information about the perpetrator, and implications for practice.
In one recent study, perpetrators of animal cruelty included boys and girls ranging in age from 3-18, as well as relatives and caregivers of the children. Companion animals were often harmed as a means for silencing children or were hurt by children who had been sexually abused. A series of recommendations have been made to child welfare departments which include mandatory training to alert case workers that animal cruelty may be an indicator of violence against family members, the development of protocols for identifying the problem, and identifying resources to address the problem. Animal cruelty is yet one more negative outcome for children in homes where domestic violence occurs.[Excerpted from report]