The purpose of this study was to investigate the frequency with which child protection workers (CPWs) in Ontario, Canada, seek information about animal cruelty during investigations of child maltreatment and the extent to which they consider information about animal cruelty when making decisions about whether intervention is required. The CPWs (N = 78) responded to an online survey about their experiences with animal cruelty during child protection investigations in the previous year. Few CPWs routinely asked questions about animal cruelty during investigations, but those who did ask questions were significantly more likely to report disclosures of animal cruelty by children and caregivers than those who did not ask questions. Many CPWs had directly observed children and caregivers physically harming animals. Almost all respondents indicated that animal cruelty was an important factor to consider when making intervention decisions. The results suggest that CPWs should consider routinely asking children and caregivers questions about animal cruelty and observe the behavior and living conditions of family pets when conducting risk assessments. Future research should determine whether animal cruelty is a reliable indicator of exposure to family violence.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Animal cruelty, Child abuse, Child protection, Domestic violence, Risk assessment
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1093/swr/svs012
Journal Social Work Research
Citation
Girardi, A. (Alberta), & Pozzulo, J. (2012). The significance of animal cruelty in child protection investigations. Social Work Research (Vol. 36, pp. 53–60). doi:10.1093/swr/svs012