Child, Animal Abuse Linked Under Albany Bill
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Social workers examining the treatment of children could face charges of negligence for failing to report animal abuse under legislation in Albany.
Council Member Sara Gonzalez of Brooklyn has introduced a resolution in support of the bill, which would require any official investigating allegations of child abuse to report suspected animal abuse and any official investigating allegations of animal abuse to report suspected child abuse or be civilly accountable for damages.
A spokesman for Ms. Gonzalez, Michael Schweinsburg, said the bill is based on studies showing a strong correlation between abuse of animals and abuse of children, which he said suggests that greater communication between animal and child welfare inspectors could help to prevent such mistreatment.
Critics, however, say the bill could lead to lawsuits against the institutions and officials charged with protecting vulnerable children and pets. The executive director of the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Robert Schachter, said yesterday that while he has not yet taken a position on the bill, the legislation deserves further scrutiny.
“What would happen if an instance of animal abuse wasn’t noticed and the social worker ended up being cited for something they didn’t notice?” Mr. Schachter said. “Our hearts go out to animals, and we all want to do our role, but I think these are the kinds of questions that need to be considered.”
A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Walter Olson, said the bill’s language is vague enough to allow for negligence lawsuits against social workers who see a mistreated pet but do not recognize signs of animal abuse. “I would worry if I were a social worker,” he said.
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who is sponsoring the state bill, which is stalled in committee amid resistance from social services providers, said yesterday that legal accountability is necessary to ensure that more cases of child and animal abuse are reported.
“As nice as it would be if a voluntary program would be sufficient, it just hasn’t been my experience that that works,” Ms. Glick, a Democrat of Manhattan, said.