Research consistently demonstrates that nonhuman animals are capable of cognition and complex emotions, but their legal status in the United States remains similar to that of property. As such, they are not protected under laws mandating psychologists to report suspicions of abuse of populations that are judged to be vulnerable and unable to protect themselves, such as children, the elderly and people with disabilities (American Psychological Association [APA], 2010). Findings from previous research suggest that animal abuse is a relatively common topic encountered in therapy and the majority of clinicians are in favor of allowing voluntary reporting of nonhuman animal abuse (Nelson, 2002; Schaefer, Hays, & Steiner, 2007). However, few psychologists report inquiring about animal abuse and neglect, with lack of education about animals’ welfare and human-animal violence posed as a primary reason for this phenomenon. To fill this gap in the literature, 133 psychologists were surveyed regarding how they viewed animal abuse/neglect, whether they encounter it in professional practice, and how willing they are to report to animal protection agencies or law enforcement. Then, following a brief intervention, participating psychologists revealed their post-intervention willingness to inquire about animals in their clients’ lives and their willingness to report animal abuse/neglect to animal protection agencies or law enforcement, as well as the reason that they agreed or disagreed with reporting animal abuse. Results demonstrated that animal abuse and neglect is commonly encountered by participating psychologists although few inquire about it during intake interviews. Further, the brief intervention significantly increased both disposition towards inquiring about animals in their clients’ lives and willingness to report animal abuse/neglect to animal protection or law enforcement agencies. These findings have important implications for informing APA guidelines towards including voluntary or mandatory reporting of animal abuse and neglect.
|Department||Department of Clinical Psychology|
|Degree||Doctor of Psychology|
|University||Antioch University New England|
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