The enactment in 1999 of the felony cruelty laws expressly noted “[t]he connection between animal abusers and violence towards humans,” in its legislative findings.1 The Amendment of the Family Court Act in 2006, expressly noted the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence, stating: “often abusers, in an effort to control and threaten their partners, harm or kill their pets.”2 Margaret Mead stated “[o]ne of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”3 “Animal abuse has received insufficient attention as one of a number of red ‘flags’ – warning signs or sentinel behaviors that could help identify youths at risk for perpetuating interpersonal violence and youths who have themselves been victimized.”4
Statistics strongly support the efficacy of mandatory cross-reporting. Animal abusers are five times as likely to harm humans.5 In eighty-eight percent (88%) of the families of children referred for services because a child had been abused, at least one person had abused pets.6 In approximately two-thirds of those families, it was the abusive parent who had injured or killed a pet (id). In the remaining one-third, it was a child who abused the pet (id). Seventy percent (70%) of people charged with cruelty to animals were known by police for other violent behavior — including homicide.7 Sixty percent (60%) of the homes where child abuse or neglect occurred had abused animals.8 Seventy-one percent (71%) of abused women said their partners harmed, killed or threatened pets.9 Twelve (12) independent surveys found that between eighteen percent (18%) and forty-eight percent (48%) of battered women delayed their decision to leave, or returned to their abusers out of fear for the welfare of their animals.10 Children exposed to domestic violence were three (3) times more likely to be cruel to animals.11 Another startling statistic is that twenty-six point eight percent (26.8%) of boys and twenty-nine point four percent (29.4%) of girls who were victims of physical and sexual abuse and domestic violence have been reported to abuse the family pets.12 Seventy-five percent (75%) of the incidents of animal abuse occurred in the presence of children to psychologically control and coerce them.13
Although being recognized as a diagnostic tool to identify domestic violence and/or child abuse cases, its historical antecedent dates back well over two hundred and fifty (250) years when they were aptly illustrated in William Hogarth’s engravings entitled the “Four Stages of Cruelty,” in the Eighteenth (18th) Century.14 Each of the four stages are depicted in four engravings that progress from the fictional character Tom Nero’s torture of a dog, to beating his horse, to his robbery and murder of his pregnant lover, and finally the fourth and final engraving, entitled “[t]he reward of cruelty,” where, after his conviction and execution for robbery and murder, his body is taken from the gallows for an anatomy dissection class.
The connection, also called, the “link,” between animal abuse and human abuse has been recognized world-wide.15 In the 1970s, the FBI first quantified the link by extensive interviews of murderers in prison, and follow-up research.16 “A lot of what we do is threat assessment. Something we believe is prominently displayed in the histories of people who are habitually violent is animal abuse.”17 “A history of animal abuse was a better predictor of sexual assault than previous convictions for homicide, arson or firearms offense.”18 “When animals are abused, people are at risk; when people are abused, animals are at risk.”19
Courts are increasingly basing child neglect and/or abuse petitions on the exposure of children to animal abuse.20 Child neglect was found where children were kept in a home “littered with garbage, feces and the remnants of a cat’s afterbirth.”21 The deliberate killing of goldfish in the presence of children was child abuse.22
The increasing availability of orders of protection is widely viewed as an acknowledgement of the link and a step in the right direction. New York is now among twenty-four (24) states, and the District of Columbia, and the territory of Puerto Rico with statutes granting courts the power to enter orders of protection protecting against child abuse and domestic violence by protecting pets.23 The New York Family Court Act § 842 (h)(i)(1), allows an order of protection “to refrain from intentionally injuring or killing, without justification, any companion animal the respondent knows to be owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by the petitioner or a minor child residing in the household.”24 This quoted language also appears at Criminal Protection Law § 530.12 (1)(a)(b)(A) and (B). Orders of protection are therefore viewed as a step in the right direction.
Fifteen (15) states now have cross-reporting laws but New York is not among those states.25 California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia provide for cross-reporting. New York’s cross-reporting bill, A3766, has a legislative history dating back to 2001.26 The proposed bill A3766 “serves to halt the spread of violence and maltreatment to children and animals in the household.”27 A3766 requires persons ordered to report suspected cases of child abuse to also report suspicious cases of animal abuse they may come across in their official duties.28 The stated justification is that “[s]everal studies indicate the link between child abuse and/or spousal abuse and animal abuse…Pets are often the first victims of family or neighborhood disputes that escalate into violent and even fatal human encounters.”29
A3766 amends Social Service Law §§ 413, 415 and 420. Section 413, entitled, “Persons and Officials required to report cases of suspected child abuse or maltreatment,” is amended to require a “person [that] has reasonable cause to suspect that abuse or maltreatment of an animal has been caused by a person also suspected of abuse or maltreatment of a child,” to make a report. The persons required to make a report under Section 413 are typically called “mandated reporters.” Presently, there are thirty-three categories of persons, including physicians, law enforcement and teachers. Section 415, entitled, “Reporting procedure,” is amended to require reports of suspected animal abuse or maltreatment to be made immediately. Section 420, entitled, “Penalties for failure to report,” is amended to include the failure to report “animal abuse or maltreatment,” as a misdemeanor and rendering one civilly liable for damages proximately caused by the failure to report.
The efficacy of cross-reporting cannot be gainsaid and the time for A3766’s passage is long overdue. The existence and operation of mandatory cross-reporting statutes in fifteen states have indicated no problems or issues with the cross-reporting mandate. The cross-reporting mandate provides a powerful diagnostic predictive tool that needs to be put into practice in New York. Connecticut, in passing their cross-reporting bill into law, stated, by Rep. Diana Urban, that it “allows us to better protect children and animals…” New York should have no less protection for the children, mothers and pets in the State of New York.30
1 Stephen Iannacone, Felony Animal Cruelty Laws in New York, III. A. 31 Pace L. Rev. 748 (2011) (available at http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/plr/vol31/iss2/7).
2 NY Family Court Law § 842: NY Code – Section 842 (i). Order of Protection.
3 Margaret Mead, anthropologist, 1909-1978.
4 Frank Ascione, 2001.
5 Animal Legal Defense Fund, 5/20/14: http://aldf.org/resources/when-your-companion-animal-has-been-harmed/animal-cruelty-and-domestic-violence/
6 Lockwood and Hodge, The Tangled Web of Animal Abuse: The Links Between Cruelty to Animals and Human Violence, The Human Society News, Summer, 1986.
7 National Link Coalition – Boat, B. W., & Knight, J. C. (2000). Experiences and needs of adult protective services case managers when assisting clients who have companion animals. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 12(3/4), 145-155. (Available at www.nationallinkcoalition.org).
8 National Link Coalition – DeViney, E., Dickert, J., and Lockwood, R. (1983). The care of pets within child abusing families. International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems, 4, 321-329. (Available at www.nationallinkcoalition.org).
9 National Link Coalition – Ascione, F. R., Weber, C. V., & Wood, D. S. (1997). The abuse of animals and domestic violence: A national survey of shelters for women who are battered. Society and Animals, 5(3), 205-218. (Available at www.nationallinkcoalition.org).
10 National Link Coalition – Ascione, F. R. (2007). Emerging research on animal abuse as a risk factor for intimate partner violence. In K. Kendall-Tackett & S. Giacomoni (Eds.), Intimate partner violence (pp. 3-1 to 3-17). Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute. (Available at www.nationallinkcoalition.org).
11 National Link Coalition – Currie, C. L. (2006). Animal cruelty by children exposed to domestic violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30(4), 425-435. (Available at www.nationallinkcoalition.org).
12 Ascione, Frank R. (2005b). Children and Animals: Exploring the Roots of Kindness and Cruelty. West Layfayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
13 National Link Coalition – Ascione, F. R., Weber, C. V., & Wood, D. S. (1997). The abuse of animals and domestic violence: A national survey of shelters for women who are battered. Society and Animals, 5(3), 205-218. (Available at www.nationallinkcoalition.org).
14 Warren, Maureen. (2010). William Hogarth’s Four Stages of Cruelty and Moral Blindness. Athanor XXVIII (pp.17-27).
15 The International Handbook of Animal Abuse and Cruelty, by Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D., Purdue University Press, 2010 (ISBN 13: 978-1-55753-463-7); generally see www.animallaw.info.
16 Deadly Serious: An FBI Perspective On Animal Cruelty in Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence, by Randall Lockwood, Ph.D., and Ann Church, Purdue Research Foundation 1998 (ISBN 1-55753-105-6).
17 FBI Special Agent Alan Brantley, Behavioral Science Unit, National Link Coalition, “Animal Cruelty As An Indicator And Predictor Crime,” by Phil Arkow (2014).
18 Gullone, E. & Clarke, J.P. (2008). Animal abuse, cruelty, and welfare: An Australian perspective, in F.R. Ascione (Ed.), The International handbook of animal abuse and cruelty: Theory, research and application. West Layfayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
19 Freda Scott-Park, PhD, Hon DVM&S, MRC VS, Chairman, the Link Group (1 June 2013); American Humane Association, Understanding the Link between Violence to People and Violence to Animals.
20 Nicholson v. Scoppetta, 3 NY3d 357, 371 .
21 In the matter of Edward A. Carpenter, 94 AD3d 1367, 1367 [3rd Dept 2012] (affirming finding of child neglect where children kept in a home “littered with garbage, feces and the remnants of a cat’s afterbirth”).
22 People v. Garcia, 777 NYS2d 846 [NY 2004] (finding a child’s goldfish to be a “companion animal”).
23 National Link Coalition, “Pets in Protection Orders by State as of April 28, 2014.”
24 McKinney’s Family Court Act § 842 (h)(i)(1).
25 National Link Coalition – The Link Letter. (2011). Vol. 7, No. 5. (Available at www.nationallinkcoalition.org).
26 Bill Number A3766. (2001). An act to amend the social services law, in relation to the reporting of animal abuse.
27 Bill Number A3766. (2001). An act to amend the social services law, in relation to the reporting of animal abuse. Section entitled: Justification.
28 Bill Number A3766. (2001). An act to amend the social services law, in relation to the reporting of animal abuse. Section entitled: Purpose.
29 Bill Number A3766. (2001). An act to amend the social services law, in relation to the reporting of animal abuse. Section entitled: Justification.
30 Press Release, dated May 8, 2014: www.housedems.ct.gov/urban/pr043_2014.asp