State Sen. Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, was recently named to the special commission created by the Protect Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) II legislation that passed in the Summer of 2018. The legislation updated the state’s animal cruelty laws and called for a commission to review the mandated reporting of known or suspected animal cruelty, and abuse of children, the elderly, and disabled persons. The special commission had their first meeting on Tuesday, November 27.

O’Connor said that the commission started to review the feasibility of training Animal Control Officers (ACOs) to become mandated reporters of domestic abuse, and social workers to become mandated reporters of animal abuse. Professional training for ACOs to recognize and investigate animal cruelty is available through several national organizations as well as the ACO Association of Massachusetts. The commission is reviewing the potential costs and challenges associated with this training, and any anticipated increase in the reporting of abuse of animals, children and elderly and disabled persons.

“I think it’s clear that there is a strong correlation between those that abuse animals and those that abuse people. It is important that we properly train employees that report animal abuse to pay attention for the signs of domestic abuse, and vice versa,” O’Connor said. “This training could have a significant impact on abuse cases that may go unnoticed to the untrained eye.”

According to the Animal Cruelty Protection Task Force Findings and Recommendations, the link between animal abuse and violence towards people is widely supported. For example: animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people, four times as likely to commit property crimes, and three times more likely to have a record for drug or disorderly conduct offenses. Experts estimate that 48 to 71 percent of battered women have pets that were abused or killed.

The commission is tentatively scheduled to meet four times through February 2019.

O’Connor represents the Plymouth and Norfolk district, which includes the towns of Cohasset, Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, and Weymouth.