“Animal abuse and neglect are frequently the earliest warning signs of a family in trouble,” said Phil Arkow, coordinator of the National Link Coalition. “But unfortunately, the human services and social services agencies don’t integrate their work with animal services.”
Arkow said research consistently shows that animal abuse is linked to child abuse and spousal abuse. Recent studies show that animal abuse is often the “tip of the iceberg,” he said.
“There should be a procedure so animal control officers can call Child Protective Services to report his or her findings and then let that agency take it from there.”
Working toward change
Last summer, Connecticut passed a law requiring animal welfare workers to share their investigations with the state Department of Children and Families so the agencies can connect animal abuse and child abuse cases. Illinois also requires cross-reporting.
“It is common sense, and it will save lives,” Arkow said. “All it takes is a couple administrators getting together, recognizing it’s an issue, and setting up a fairly simple cross-training and cross-reporting system.”
In October, local officials held a workshop at the South Bend Police Department for members of law enforcement, social service agencies, prosecutors, domestic violence victim groups, and animal control examining the link between animal abuse and domestic violence.
“I’d like to think St. Joseph County can take the lead in this,” Arkow said, “and begin to get something going.”
Staff writer Mary Kate Malone: