LITTLE ROCK - A state child welfare worker investigating suspected child abuse or neglect also should look for signs of animal cruelty because the offenses are interwoven, a psychologist told a legislative task force.
"Understanding animal abuse can strengthen anti-violence policies and programs," Mary Lou Randour, a psychologist with the Human Society of the United States told the Task Force on Abused and Neglected Children.
Randour cited national studies showing animal abuse occurred in 88 percent of families under state investigation for suspected child abuse and that abused children often come from homes where pets were either abused or killed.
Sometimes pets are threatened to keep children from talking to others about their abuse, she said, adding that up to 71 percent of women admitted to shelters for battered women report their partners either injured or killed their pets.
"Understanding animal abuse can strengthen anti-violence policies and programs," she said.
The task force, comprised of lawmakers, state employees who work with victims of domestic abuse and child abuse, and representatives from nonprofits that provide services to the victims, has been meeting for more than a year to develop policies and procedures to prevent domestic violence and child abuse.