Animal Control Officers Mandated Reporters of Human Abuse in Illinois
Those of us in animal control recognize the connection between animal abuse and human violence. Sometimes, animal control officers may be the first official who witnesses or identifies child abuse, elder abuse or even domestic violence in the course of their work.
Because of that strong connection, Illinois law (Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act) has mandated that animal control officers report suspected child abuse. Furthermore, under the Adult Protective Services Act, an animal control officer may be considered a mandated reporter if employed by a law enforcement agency, public health department, or social service agency. In any case, as a professional in public safety, an animal control officer should report suspected abuse or crimes whenever encountered. Conversely, Department of Child and Family Services caseworkers are mandated to report animal abuse when encountered.
The designation of a mandated reporter requires that the official report suspected abuse to the appropriate agency but provides immunity for any unfounded reports. Failure to report suspected child abuse constitutes a Class A misdemeanor – the 2nd violation can result in a Class 4 felony.
You must report if you suspect a child has experienced physical or sexual abuse or neglect. The criteria for a report of child neglect or abuse include:
- The alleged victim must be under the age of 18,
- The alleged perpetrator must be an individual who lives in the child’s home, is a person responsible for the child’s welfare, or anyone who came to know the child through a position of trust,
- A specific incident or set of circumstances raises suspicion that a child is abused or neglected, and
- The child is harmed or is at substantial risk of physical or sexual injury.
As a mandated reporter for child abuse, animal control officers must complete the Acknowledgement of Mandated Reporter Status form and complete the DCFS Mandated Reporter online training. You can access both of these documents at Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Mandated Reporting Manual. You should also complete Mandated Reporter Training that is offered on line at DCFS Training. To report suspected child abuse, call 1-800-25ABUSE or 1-800-252-2873.
Don’t assume someone else will make the call; you must report it if you suspect a child is being neglected or abused. Reporting to your supervisor does not relieve you of the responsibility of making the call yourself. You can make an anonymous report, but the investigator won’t be able to call you back for more information, you won’t know the results of the investigation, and there will be no record you fulfilled your legal obligation to make the report.
Adult abuse refers to any Illinois resident age 18-59 living with a disability or an adult 60 years of age or older who lives in a domestic setting (not a nursing home). The abuse must be committed by another person and must be either abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. You can access more information about reporting adult/elder abuse at http://www.state.il.us/aging/. A mandated reporter must report within 24 hours any suspected abuse to the State of Illinois Department on Aging. If you’re unsure, make the report. 1-866-800-1409.
Finally, animal control officers may also witness or suspect domestic violence. While no mandated reporting status exists for domestic violence, as professionals in public safety we must report crime whenever we see it. Domestic violence is not a private family matter- it is a crime. Call 911 if you witness this type of violence. If you or someone you know needs help, call the 24-hour crisis line nearest you.
As we strive to elevate our image in the community and increase our professionalism, we must behave as public safety officials whenever we witness or suspect crime. You may be the one person someone discloses abuse to or you may be the only authority figure who sees violence occurring. You must report what you witness – you could be the difference between continued suffering or intervention and help. Animal Control Officers can play a part in ending violence and abuse by reporting suspected cases – whether reporting is mandated or not.