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State leaders discuss ‘The connection’ between child abuse and animal cruelty

Preventive services from Branford’s Cosgrove Animal Shelter highlighted

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, state lawmakers, agency leaders and advocacy representatives joined Branford officials April 19 at the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter to discuss the strong correlation between animal cruelty, child abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence – also called ‘ called The Link’. April is Child Abuse Awareness and Cruelty to Animal Prevention Month. Pam Johnson/The Sound

First Judge Jamie Cosgrove thanked the visiting leadership for drawing attention to the important issues and also recognized the city’s animal control officers during National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week. Pam Johnson/The Sound

Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter of Branford and its animal control services, a model for the state for its extraordinary efforts including helping animals harmed by cruelty, drew state lawmakers and leaders to its doors on April 19.

The leadership came to town to discuss the strong correlation between animal cruelty, child abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence – known as ‘The Link’. April is Child Abuse Awareness and Cruelty to Animal Prevention Month.

First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove, State Senator Christine Cohen, State Representative Robin Comey and Cosgrove Shelter Director Laura Burban welcomed Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, state officials, agency leaders and animal welfare advocates. Bysiewicz led the day’s discussion on the issue and the proactive steps Connecticut is taking to address “The Link.”

On behalf of the Branford, Cosgrove thanked them for drawing attention to the important issues at hand. With the event taking place during Animal Control Officers (ACOs) Appreciation Week, Cosgrove also recognized the important work of the city’s ACOs under Burban’s leadership. He said the shelter staff and ACOs are doing their utmost to provide education, training and programs to the community and youth, in addition to responding to animal welfare calls, including those involving difficult situations.

“As we’re going to hear today, when we hear about animal cruelty issues, there are often other things going on. So this not only impacts the individuals and families, but actually all of our communities,” Cosgrove said.

Bysiewicz thanked the City of Branford for its dedication and investment in keeping animals safe, finding adoptive homes for animals in need and supporting the needs of animals and the community with the new shelter.

Bysiewicz said there is a crucial link between cruelty to animals and child abuse.

“It is important to recognize the connections between these acts of violence. The overlap between child abusers and animal abusers is significant. Research has shown that animals have suffered harm in 88% of homes where a child was also physically abused,” Bysiewicz said. “For victims of domestic violence, abusers often seek to exploit their emotional attachment to pets, and unfortunately, pets can become part of an abuser’s coercive control over their victims. Seventy-five percent of female survivors report that their pets have been threatened or intentionally harmed by their partner.”

In 2011, Connecticut passed a law requiring a coordinated interagency response involving the Department of Agriculture (DOAG) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF), based on mounting evidence of the link between animal cruelty, child abuse, intimate partner violence and elder abuse. The law, which was expanded in 2014, requires DCF personnel and state, regional and municipal ACO to work together to “cross-report” to DOAG when they reasonably suspect that animal cruelty, child abuse and neglect has occurred. In addition, DOAG is mandated to forward all reports of animal cruelty to DCF for review, which may lead to an investigation to determine the safety of children exposed to animal cruelty at home.

DOAG Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt said the joint approach with DCF and other state and municipal partners also works to increase awareness and reach on the link between child abuse and animal cruelty.

“The cross-reporting tools have been essential in ensuring the welfare of children and animals,” Hurlburt said.

Thanks in part to increased education and outreach efforts by DCF and DOAG, animal cruelty reports have emerged in recent years, officials said. Working with ACOs, the agencies this year began collecting more comprehensive data on animal cruelty occurring in open/past DCF cases to gain a more complete understanding of the relationship between ‘The Link’.

In addition, Paws for Kids, a partnership between DCF and the animal welfare community, promotes the well-being of children and animals through a variety of efforts. Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates, an entirely volunteer organization, is also committed to influencing animal welfare legislation and raising public awareness of the statistical link between animal cruelty and domestic and social violence.

Burban expressed her gratitude to all attendees on April 19 for the support and recognition the event brought to the important work of Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter and its staff.

“With this being Animal Control Appreciation Week and Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, we are grateful that our shelter is being highlighted for the critically important work that animal control officers and staff do every day to protect both the animals and the public. We have tremendous support from the City of Branford and beyond, allowing us to continue saving as many lives as we do,” said Burban.

In Branford, animal cruelty reports can be made by contacting the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter at 203-315-4125; reports to the state can be emailed to [email protected]. Anyone who wants to make a report can remain anonymous. If there is reasonable suspicion of child abuse, you can contact the CT Child Abuse and Neglect Careline at 1-800-842-2288 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Callers can remain anonymous.