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Agreement to protect children and animals thought to be world-first

Monday, 15 September, 2008

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 SPCA New Zealand.

“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.