Two bills relating to reporting animal abuse soared through the Senate.

Senators: Animal abuse laws could prevent other forms of abuse

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Government

Two bills relating to reporting animal abuse soared through the Senate.

Two bills relating to reporting animal abuse soared through the Senate.

Two bills that aim to prevent animal abuse unanimously passed through the Senate floor Tuesday.

Senate Bill 71, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, would require law-enforcement agencies, the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families and the Department of Justice to report suspected animal cruelty to the Office of Animal Welfare.

The reports would only be required if an employee of the aforementioned agencies discovers an incident of abuse while performing their job in child welfare cases.

SB71 also provides immunity to people who, in good faith, report suspected animal cruelty. 

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“Research over the past 35 years has identified significant correlations between animal abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, elder abuse, and other forms of violence,” Hansen said. “Animal abuse is often an indicator or predictor of crime and considered a warning sign that other family members in the household are not safe.”

Animals are often threatened or harmed as a way to control or psychologically abuse a human victim, she said. 

“Witnessing animal cruelty causes psychological trauma to children,” she said, “and negatively impacts their development.”

SB 71 now heads to a House committee for consideration.

Senate Bill 70, sponsored by Sen. Nicole Poore, D-Delaware City, also passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday.

The bill would formally recognize abuse to a companion or service animal as a form of domestic abuse when the abuse is used to harm or control the human victim who has an attachment to the animal.

It also clarifies the definition of abuse, which it outlines as engaging in cruelty, inflicting a physical injury or engaging in a course of alarming or distressing conduct.

The act also provides authority for courts to include provisions in a protection from abuse order that grant a petitioner exclusive care, custody, or control of a companion animal and order a petitioner to stay away from the companion animal.

“Before someone harms a spouse or a child, they’re very often beginning the violence against the most vulnerable member of the family,” Poore said, “and that would be the cat, the dog or any other animal in that household.”

SB 70 heads to a House committee for discussion.

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