State Summary Report

 Cross-reporting of animal and child abuse

June 2011

In recent years, a number of researchers have studied and analyzed the co-occurrence of animal abuse and domestic violence. In the wake of these studies, state legislatures have introduced and adopted bills which mandate the cross-reporting of animal and child abuse between animal health care providers, animal control agencies, child health care providers, and child protection agencies.

The following table highlights the laws and regulations that AVMA research has identified requiring the cross-reporting of animal, child abuse, and domestic violence by animal health officials, animal control officials, child protective services, and other social welfare agencies. 

STATE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
California Provides that any employee of a county child or adult protective services agency, while acting in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment, who has knowledge of or observes an animal whom he or she knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of cruelty, abuse, or neglect, may report the known or reasonably suspected animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect to the entity or entities that investigate reports of animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect in that county. Also provides that a mandated reporter (including a veterinarian, animal control officer or humane society officer) shall make a report to an agency whenever the mandated reporter, in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment, has knowledge of or observes a child whom the mandated reporter knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse or neglect.
Colorado Provides that any specified person, including a veterinarian, officer and agent of the State Bureau of Animal Protection, or animal control officer, who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect shall immediately upon receiving such information report or cause a report to be made of such fact to the county department or local law enforcement agency.
Connecticut Provides that effective October 1, 2011, any employee of the Department of Children and Families who, in the course of his or her employment, has reasonable cause to suspect that an animal is being or has been harmed, neglected or treated cruelly is required to make an oral report to the Commissioner of Agriculture.
District of Columbia Provides that any law enforcement or child or protective services employee who knows of or has reasonable cause to suspect an animal has been the victim of cruelty, abandonment, or neglect, or observes an animal at the home of a person reasonably suspected of child, adult, or animal abuse, shall provide a report within 2 business days to the Mayor. If the health and welfare of the animal is in immediate danger, the report shall be made within 6 hours. No individual who in good faith reports a reasonable suspicion of abuse shall be liable in any civil or criminal action.

Also provides that any specified person, including a humane officer of any agency charged with the enforcement of animal cruelty laws, who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child known to him or her in his or her professional or official capacity has been or is in immediate danger of being a mentally or physically abused or neglected child, shall immediately report or have a report made of such knowledge or suspicion to either the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia or the Child and Family Services Agency.
Illinois Provides that Investigation Specialists, Intact Family Specialists, and Placement Specialists employed by the Department of Children and Family Services who reasonably believe that an animal observed by them when in their professional or official capacity is being abused or neglected in violation of the Humane Care for Animals Act must immediately make a written or oral report to the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare. However, the Department of Children and Family Services may not discipline an Investigation Specialist, an Intact Family Specialist, or a Placement Specialist for failing to make such a report if the Specialist determines that making the report would interfere with the performance of his or her child welfare protection duties.

Also provides that an animal control officer, department investigator, or approved humane investigator who has reasonable cause to suspect or believe that a child is being abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected must immediately make a written or oral report to the Department of Children and Family Services. Provides immunity from liability for persons, institutions, and agencies participating in good faith in the reporting or investigation of animal abuse or neglect and provides for confidentiality of the identity of persons reporting animal abuse or neglect.
Louisiana Requires reporting by any state or local law enforcement officer, or any employee of government or of a government contractor who in his professional capacity routinely investigates alleged abuse or neglect or sexual abuse of a child, or abuse or neglect of an adult, who becomes aware of evidence of neglect or abuse of an animal. No person required to report shall knowingly and willfully obstruct the procedures for receiving and investigating a report of abuse or neglect or shall disclose, without authorization, confidential information which was reported. No person shall make a report knowing that any information therein is false.
Maine Provides that, when acting in a professional capacity, a humane agent employed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources shall immediately report or cause a report to be made when the person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected or that a suspicious child death has occurred. Also provides that an animal control officer may report to the department when that person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected.

Also provides that health care professional and other social service employees may report a reasonable suspicion of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect to the local animal control officer or to the animal welfare program of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources. The reporter shall disclose only such limited confidential information as is necessary for the local animal control officer or animal welfare program employee to identify the animal's location and status and the owner's name and address.
Massachusetts Provides that during any investigation or evaluation, any employee of the Department of Children and Families, or person employed pursuant to a contract with the Department, when acting in his professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment, who has knowledge of or observes an animal whom he knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, may report the known or suspected animal cruelty, abuse or neglect to the entities that investigate reports of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, or any local animal control authority. No person making such report shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of such report if it was made in good faith.

Nothing shall impose a duty on the Department to investigate known or reasonably suspected animal cruelty, abuse or neglect. Nothing shall prevent the Department, area office or subdivision from entering into an agreement, contract or memorandum of understanding with the entities that investigate reports of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, to require such reports or to engage in training in identification and reporting of animal abuse, cruelty and neglect.
Nebraska Provides that when any physician, medical institution, nurse, school employee, social worker, or other person has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect or observes such child being subjected to conditions or circumstances which reasonably would result in child abuse or neglect, he or she shall report such incident or cause a report of child abuse or neglect to be made to the proper law enforcement agency or to the department on the toll-free number.

Also provides that any employee of a governmental agency dealing with child or adult protective services, animal control, or animal abuse, while acting in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment, who observes or is involved in an incident which leads the employee to reasonably suspect that an animal has been abandoned, cruelly neglected, or cruelly mistreated shall report such to the entity or entities that investigate such reports in that jurisdiction. Nothing shall be construed to impose a duty to investigate observed or reasonably suspected animal abandonment, cruel neglect, or cruel mistreatment. Any person making a report is immune from liability except for false statements of fact made with malicious intent.
Ohio Provides that no specified person, including an agent of a county humane society, who is acting in an official or professional capacity and knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect based on facts that would cause a reasonable person in a similar position to suspect, that a child under eighteen years of age or a mentally retarded, developmentally disabled, or physically impaired child under twenty-one years of age has suffered or faces a threat of suffering any physical or mental wound, injury, disability, or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse or neglect of the child shall fail to immediately report that knowledge or reasonable cause to suspect to specified entities or persons.

Also provides that when an officer or agent of the Ohio humane society or of a county humane society deems it for the best interest of a child, because of cruelty inflicted upon the child or because of the child's surroundings, that the child be removed from the possession and control of the parents or persons having charge of the child, the officer or agent shall report as specified.
Tennessee Provides that any state, county or municipal employee of a child or adult protective services agency, while acting in a professional capacity or within the scope of employment, who has knowledge of or observes an animal that the person knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of cruelty, abuse, or neglect, shall report the known or reasonably suspected animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect to the entity or entities that investigate reports of animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect in that county. Nothing shall be construed to impose a duty to investigate known or reasonably suspected animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect. Nothing shall expand or limit confidentiality requirements under existing law relative to child or adult protective services. The name of any employee of a child or adult protective services agency who reports known or reasonably suspected animal cruelty, abuse or neglect shall remain confidential.
Virginia Provides that, an animal control officer in his or her professional or official capacity, who has reason to suspect that a child is an abused or neglected child, shall report the matter immediately to the local department of the county or city wherein the child resides or wherein the abuse or neglect is believed to have occurred or to the Department's toll-free child abuse and neglect hotline.

Any person who makes a report or provides records or information or who testifies in any judicial proceeding arising from such report, records, or information, shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability or administrative penalty or sanction on account of such report, records, information, or testimony, unless such person acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose.
West Virginia Provides that whenever a humane officer, pursuant to an investigation of animal cruelty, forms a reasonable suspicion that a minor child, or incapacitated or elderly person, is the victim of abuse or neglect or has a suspicion of domestic violence, he or she shall report the suspicion and the grounds therefor. In the event of suspected child abuse or neglect, the humane officer shall report to the local child protective services agency of the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Also provides that, whenever a law-enforcement officer, pursuant to a response to an alleged incident of domestic violence, forms a reasonable suspicion that an animal is a victim of cruel or inhumane treatment, he or she shall report the suspicion and the grounds therefor to the county humane officer within twenty-four hours of the response to the alleged incident of domestic violence.

Also provides that, in the event a child protective service worker, in response to a mandated report, forms a reasonable suspicion that an animal is the victim of cruel or inhumane treatment, he or she shall report the suspicion and the basis therefor to the county humane officer within twenty-four hours of the response to the report.

Source:  Staff Research, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department
Contact:  Tara Southwell, State Policy Analyst, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department, 847-285-6779.