State Agencies Combat Sad Trend of a Link Between Child Abuse and Animal Cruelty

Leaders said people who abuse kids are also likely to mistreat animals and state departments are using cross-reporting to try to prevent both.

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It is a heartbreaking trend: in households where kids are abused, animals are often getting hurt, as well.

State agencies are collaborating to put a stop to it using cross-over reporting. Since April is both Child Abuse Awareness Month and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, state leaders came together Friday to discuss efforts in both areas.

The reason a pet may end up in the Humane Society is the same reason a child could be put into the care of the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

“We've witnessed abuse in households where it's both the pets and the children,” James Bias, executive director of the Connecticut Humane Society, said. “Abuse certainly can have long-term ramifications.”

He said the Connecticut Humane Society in Newington has taken in pets from abusive homes.

“We’ve discovered over the years that there's definitely a link between those who abuse animals and those who abuse people, particularly young kids,” Bias said. “Both categories, they really don't have much of a voice, and so it really does take others to step up.”

Connecticut passed legislation in 2011 that requires agencies to cross-report both kinds of abuse.

A decade later, DCF and the Department of Agriculture continue to conduct joint trainings, and use their partnership to sound the alarm on dangerous situations for both kids and pets in a home.

“We have to look at the fact that individuals who enact coercive patterns of control in one member of the family most likely enact that and inflict that power control on others. The members of the family are not just the parents and the children, the members of the family are also the pets,” Ken Mysogland, bureau chief of external affairs for DCF, said.

Mysogland also said the agencies have seen that animal cruelty is often an indicator that someone will commit even more heinous crimes.

“At times, survivors of domestic violence report to us that their pet was actually used as a weapon, that they're threatened that if they leave the relationship, the dog will be harmed,” Mysogland said.

According to the Department of Agriculture, in more than 80% of households with pets where children are being abused, the animals are also being harmed.  

“We’ll come in, we'll do the actual investigation, and worst case scenarios, we are responsible for seizing animals that have been neglected or mistreated,” Bryan Hurlburt, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, said.

It’s why the department encourages people to report animal mistreatment by contacting the state Animal Control Unit. Then, the Attorney General’s Office will work to hold perpetrators responsible.

“They could face animal cruelty charges, they could face civil penalties and criminal penalties,” Hurlburt said. “They could lose the ability to own a pet or an animal for the rest of their lives.”

The combined efforts aim to protect the state’s most vulnerable.

“Pets and children, both really don't have the ability or access to pick up the phone and dial 911,” Bias said. “So they're depending on others to observe, see what's going on, speak up, say something and help make a change.”

You can report child abuse to DCF and animal mistreatment to Connecticut’s Animal Control Unit.

The state’s “Kid Governor” was also a part of Friday’s press conference. Fifth grader Makhi Ettienne-Modeste is especially passionate about the initiative because he was elected on the platform of showing kindness towards pets and companion animals.

He continued his message of “POP,” or Protecting Our Pets.

“I know animal abuse happens every day, and it is frustrating that it doesn’t stop. I never want to see a pet or companion animal hurt,” Ettienne-Modeste said.

Ettienne-Modeste launched a statewide poster contest to raise awareness and at Friday’s event, he showed the winning poster, drawn by Danielle Chrostowski in Greenwich.

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