A common obstacle facing child protection personnel, social workers and
other human services officials who encounter suspected animal maltreatment is how to report it within professional and institutional confidentiality restrictions that protect the professional/client relationship. One such solution is to enable or permit such cross-reporting through statutory relief.
Massachusetts is one of several states that haveaddressed this issue in recent years. New legislation created a new statute (Chap. 119, Sec. 85) that specifically addresses
“department employees reporting animal cruelty, abuse or neglect.”
In Massachusetts, any child protection employee or contractor who, when acting in an official capacity or within the scope of employment, has knowledge of known
or reasonably suspicious animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, may report it to humane societies, SPCAs or animal control authorities. There is no civil or criminal liability if
the report is made in good faith.
Similar laws permitting child welfare officials to report suspected animal abuse exist in California, Maine and Oregon. Five states (Connecticut, Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee and West Virginia) mandate these reports of suspected animal abuse to be made.
General LawsClick to PrintPrint Page
Section 85. (a) During any investigation or evaluation reported under section 51A, any employee of the department or person employed pursuant to a contract with the department, when acting in his professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment, who has knowledge of or observes an animal whom he knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, may report the known or suspected animal cruelty, abuse or neglect to the entities that investigate reports of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, as described in section 57 of chapter 22C, or any local animal control authority.
(b) The report may be made within 2 working days of receiving the information concerning the animal, by facsimile transmission or a written report or by telephone. In cases where an immediate response may be necessary in order to protect the health and safety of the animal, the report should be made by telephone as soon as possible.
(c) When 2 or more employees of the department are present and jointly have knowledge of known or reasonably suspected animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, and where there is agreement among them, a report may be made by 1 person by mutual agreement. Any reporter who has knowledge that the person designated to report has failed to do so may thereafter make the report.
(d) No person making such report shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of such report if it was made in good faith. Any privilege established by sections 135A and 135B of chapter 112 or by section 20B of chapter 233, relating to confidential communications, shall not prohibit the filing of a report pursuant to this section.
(e) Nothing in this section shall impose a duty on the department to investigate known or reasonably suspected animal cruelty, abuse or neglect.
(f) Nothing in this section shall prevent the department, area office or subdivision from entering into an agreement, contract or memorandum of understanding with the entities that investigate reports of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect as described in section 57 of chapter 22C, to require such reports or to engage in training in identification and reporting of animal abuse, cruelty and neglect.