CEDARVILLE, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) signed a bill Wednesday requiring the cross-reporting of child and animal abuse.
Advocates said the contents and timing of the bill are imperative amidst the pandemic.
It is now law for veterinarians and social workers who come across animals suspected of being abused to tell police or animal control.
"Animal abuse is linked to other forms of violence including domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse as well as community violence such as school shootings, serial killers. Some of the worst of the worst get their courage from abusing animals," said Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City).
That is why the bill also accounts for the reverse situation.
A police or humane officer is now required to tell social services if a child or senior citizen lives with someone suspected of abusing their pets.
According to a 2010 survey by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, 40% of victims could recall cases where pets had been threatened, harmed or killed before violence escalated to family members.
"Seventy-percent of women will not leave domestic violent situations unless they can take their animal with them. So, that's another factor of unfortunately why a lot of times women and children are still in the home with the you might say exposure to escalating violence," said Vicki Deisner, the executive director of the nonprofit Ohio Animal Advocates.
The bill also gives immunity to any official who reports animal or child abuse from being sued.
Vicki Deisner, who also works with the non-profit Animal Welfare Institute, said the coverage is huge.
"Particularly, in these COVID-19 times when unfortunately domestic violence and animal abuse is on the rise," Deisner said.
Deisner said the past several years, AWI has held workshops around the state for both sides so the law can have a smooth implementation.
"On the local level, they can develop the knowledge of each other, what each other does, opportunities to intervene and work together and build procedures to communicate so everyone can intervene early in these situations," said Deisner.