Press Releases

Kuster, Van Drew Introduce Legislation to Improve Child and Animal Abuse Data Collection

Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Congressman Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) introduced the bipartisan Child and Animal Abuse Detection and Reporting Act. This legislation improves 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 Congresswoman Kuster. “Our government must do more to protect both our children and animals. I am proud to introduce this legislation to direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to gather information 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.”

“It is a sad reality that in homes filled with violence, pets often endure the same mistreatment as children and other vulnerable family members,” said Congressman Van Drew.  “By connecting the dots between animal cruelty and child abuse in households, we are empowering officials to identify when to intervene earlier and helping to prevent further mistreatment from taking place. This bill is an important step forward to protect every member of our community, human and animal alike.”

“In a violent household, companion animals are often victims of the same abusive behaviors that harm children, intimate partners, and vulnerable adults,” said Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute. “Often, the first person to identify a child in a dangerous situation is a law enforcement officer responding to an animal cruelty call. There is an urgent need for more comprehensive information about these patterns so that social service providers can understand how to intervene safely and effectively.”

As authorized by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment (CAPTA) Act in 1988, the Department of Health and Human Services established the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) to compile information from states about the nearly 700,000 American children abused annually. Case reports in NCANDS include a variety of details, such as the type of abuse a child suffered or whether the caregiver had a substance abuse disorder. This data helps researchers and service providers better understand the factors associated with child abuse. Evidence has identified a strong link between animal abuse and domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. 

The Child and Animal Abuse Detection and Reporting Act is endorsed by the Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Legal Defense Fund, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Humane Society of the US, Humane Society Legislative Fund, National LINK Coalition, Ohio Animal Advocates, Small & Rural Law Enforcement Executives Association, and Show Your Soft Side.