In an effort to leverage existing connections between animal and human abuse to reduce these cruelties, State Senator John Unger (D-Berkeley) is sponsoring a piece of legislation that unanimously passed the Senate on March 9. Senate Bill 226 is designed to require cross-reporting of suspected abuse or neglect of children, elderly individuals, incapacitated adults or animals, as well as suspected acts of domestic violence. The legislation would require this type of cross-reporting among child protective service workers, adult protective service workers, law-enforcement officers and humane officers.
“This legislation is vital to continued efforts in reducing all types of abuse and neglect in West Virginia,” said Senator Unger. “In reviewing this issue, we found a distinct relationship between inhumane acts against animals and humans -- a connection that we intend to utilize to reduce these cruel, unnecessary abuses and to bring guilty individuals and repeat offenders to justice.”
After investigating an instance of animal cruelty, a humane officer who has reason to believe that a child, an incapacitated adult or an elderly person also is a victim of abuse would be required to report his or her suspicion to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ local Child Protective Services agency or Adult Protective Services agency. If the humane officer suspects domestic violence, then he or she would report to the State Police.
Correspondingly, when an adult or child protective service worker develops reasonable suspicion that an animal also is a victim of abuse, they would be required to report this information to the county humane officer. A law-enforcement officer who investigates a domestic violence incident and believes that an animal is being subject to cruel or inhumane treatment also would be required to disclose this information to the county humane officer.
“By streamlining all of these reporting requirements, I believe we will have increased opportunities to identify homes in which abusive acts are prevalent and, most importantly, to protect victims from future occurrences,” stated Senator Unger.