Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH-02) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY-24) led 22 colleagues as they re-introduced the bipartisan Child and Animal Abuse Detection and Reporting Act. This legislation will improve the federal government’s child abuse data collection program by extending it to specifically evaluate animal abuse as a risk factor for child abuse.
“As a mother and animal lover, I am deeply disturbed by the degree to which child and animal abuse co-occurs,” said Rep. Kuster. “Our government must do more to protect both our children and animals. I am proud to re-introduce this legislation that will direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to gather data and analyze cases where both kids and pets are abused. Having this information will enhance our understanding of these abhorrent behaviors and provide a better foundation for screening, prevention, and treatment programs. I encourage my colleagues to advance this important legislation.”
“There is an unfortunate correlation between animal and child abuse, with perpetrators often engaging in both of these heinous acts,” said Rep. Katko. “Animals and children do not deserve to be mistreated, and we have a responsibility to do a better job tracking the behaviors of abusers. This bipartisan legislation does that, by directing the Department of Health and Human Services to study cases where both of these abuses occur. Doing so will help protect children and animals from future abuse.”
“We are grateful to Reps. Kuster and Katko for recognizing that cruelty to animals, besides being a serious crime on its own, can be a red flag that children are also at risk,” said Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute. “Assessing incidents of child abuse related to animal abuse will provide important information to better guide our responses to both crimes.”
Evidence has identified a strong link between animal abuse and domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. A survey of families in New Jersey who had been referred for physical child abuse found that animal abuse was also present in 88 percent of those homes.
Several facets of child abuse are specifically studied within the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), including the prevalence of abuse among children with disabilities and those living in families where alcoholism is present. The Child and Animal Abuse Detection and Reporting Act will add the intersectionality of child and animal abuse to the data that NCANDS must gather and assess.
Joining Reps. Kuster and Katko in reintroducing this legislation are Cindy Axne (IA-03), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), David P. Joyce (OH-14), William Keating (MA-09), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Grace Meng (NY-06), Richard E. Neal (MA-01), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Katie Porter (CA-45), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-03), and Juan Vargas (CA-51).
Representatives Kuster and Katko are two of the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, which works to raise awareness and propose solutions to the challenges posed by sexual assault and violence. The Task Force’s areas of focus include K-12 education, campus sexual violence, the rape kit backlog, military sexual trauma, improved data and collection, online harassment, and law enforcement training. Congresswoman Kuster has long been a champion for survivors of sexual violence, sharing her own personal experiences involving sexual assault on the House floor and joining with 17 other Members of Congress to read Emily Doe’s open letter describing her attack and ensuing trial – which marked the first time a victim’s statement has been read in full in the House chambers.