1.4.26 Harm to Animals and Possible Implications for Children

1. Background

There is increased recognition that there are links between cruelty to animals and maltreatment of children. Research evidence points to households where there has been severe cruelty to animals leading to prosecution by the RSPCA and children in the same household being neglected and maltreated.

2. Information Sharing where there are Concerns about a Child

Where in the course of their duties an RSPCA Officer has reason to believe that a child is at risk of harm a referral will be made to the relevant local Children's Social Care Services team, the Emergency Duty Team or the Police.

Children's Social Care Services will carry out checks to determine if the child is known to local agencies or if the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan.

An Single Assessment must be undertaken and may lead to a Strategy Discussion and a Section 47 Enquiry.

An agreement must be reached between the RSPCA Officer and Children's Social Care Services about the timing of informing the family of the origin of the referral. If appropriate, the RSPCA Officer may remain anonymous to the family as the source of the referral but it must be recognised that this is not always possible if witness statements are needed in Court proceedings.

The safety and welfare of children are paramount and any concerns must be shared and consulted about.

3. Information Sharing where there are Concerns about Animals

When in the course of their work practitioners may come across situations where animals are being maltreated or harmed, they must refer the matter to the local RSPCA services.

If there are any concerns that the safety of a child or animal may be jeopardised if the person is informed about the intention to make the referral, it is not necessary to tell them but to refer directly to the RSPCA.

4. Follow up Information Sharing

In the case of all agencies, it is good practice to provide feedback about outcomes of referrals and any actions taken.

Witness statements in the course of any actions in court by any agency may be needed. Work with a family or household may be continuing over a period of time requiring the different agencies to remain in regular contact, sharing information about progress.

In all instances the balance between the safety and welfare of the child and the animals and the rights to confidentiality of all concerned must be kept under careful review.