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RNZSPCA: Agreement To Protect Children And Animals

15 September 2008

Agreement To Protect Children And Animals Thought To Be World-First

An agreement, which will be signed this week between the SPCA and Child, Youth and Family, is thought to be a world-first joint reporting protocol between a national child protection agency and a national animal welfare society, acknowledging the link between animal and child abuse.

"The correlation between animal abuse and human abuse is widely documented. That animal abuse is part of a web of factors that make up family violence is now generally accepted," says Robyn Kippenberger, National Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

"Our animal welfare officers, when inspecting or uplifting animals subject to cruelty, may be the first to see signs of abuse of children in the family"

"This protocol sets down a formal working relationship in which we agree to inform each other's agencies if we suspect animal or child abuse in the course of our work," says Ray Smith, deputy chief executive of Child, Youth and Family.

"Preventing child abuse is the responsibility of the whole community. If we want our children to thrive, New Zealand needs to create a culture where abuse of any kind is not tolerated. By working with the SPCA we're helping our children have the best chance of being free of abuse."

New Zealand is thought to be the first country in the world to adopt a formal national protocol between the agencies for child protection and animal protection. The protocol will be signed at a ceremony on Wednesday 17 September.

"As an animal protection agency, we're really proud to be world leaders in also helping reduce child abuse," says Robyn. "Putting in place mechanisms for cross reporting allows us to recognise and respond quickly to any risks to children, young people and any animals."

The SPCA and Child, Youth and Family already work in partnership to run programmes such as the 'Animal Assisted Therapy' initiative. Every week the SPCA brings animals to the Child, Youth and Family residence at Epuni, Wellington, teaching the children and young people empathy towards animals and towards other people.

SPCA and Child, Youth and Family protocol signing:

Questions and answers

Why is a formal protocol significant? Although SPCA and Child, Youth and Family already cooperate together informally, this protocol puts in place processes about what to do and how to report suspected abuse to each other’s agencies.

How will it be used? Generally if the SPCA comes across a situation where they suspect a child or young person is being abused or at risk of harm – whether physically, emotionally or sexually – they will notify Child, Youth and Family or the Police. Where Child, Youth and Family believes an animal is being abused or neglected, they will notify the SPCA.

How will the protocol work? The protocol sets out a step-by-step process in which: SPCA: suspects child abuse or harm discuss with SPCA national office and make a decision about notifying seek advice from Child, Youth and Family call centre either phone the call centre 0508 FAMILY or make a notification report call centre makes an assessment call centre contacts SPCA and advises of any further action.

Child, Youth and Family: suspects animal abuse or neglect contact SPCA national office on their 24 phone service 0800 100 254 SPCA follows up and investigates if necessary SPCA contacts Child, Youth and Family and advises of any further action.

Where can I get more information on the link between animal and human abuse? One of the Family website www.oneofthefamily.co.nz

Where else in the world has an agreement like this been signed? Some counties in the USA have similar protocols between agencies.

Reporting suspected animal or child abuse: To report or discuss concerns over suspected child abuse, harm or neglect, anyone can call the Child, Youth and Family call centre 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) To report animal abuse or neglect call the SPCA on 0800 100 254

Does the protocol deny the right to privacy? Protecting children in is everyone’s interest and it takes the whole community to prevent abuse and neglect.

Child, Youth and Family is committed to confidentiality when SPCA makes a notification where ever this is possible (protocol 6.2). It has built in reporting procedures which include privacy issues and complies with the Privacy Act (protocol 7.2, 9).

The Official Information Act gives protection to people making notifications where their safety is a risk.

As professionals in their field, both the SPCA and Child, Youth and Family recognise the paramount importance of protecting our children and young people and animals from harm'.


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