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The Florida Statutes

The 2021 Florida Statutes

Title V
JUDICIAL BRANCH
Chapter 39
PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO CHILDREN
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F.S. 39.208
39.208 Cross-reporting child abuse, abandonment, or neglect and animal cruelty.
(1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT.
(a) The Legislature recognizes that animal cruelty of any kind is a type of interpersonal violence that often co-occurs with child abuse and other forms of family violence, including elder abuse and domestic violence. Early identification of animal cruelty is an important tool in safeguarding children from abuse, abandonment, and neglect; providing needed support to families; and protecting animals.
(b) The Legislature finds that education and training for child protective investigators and animal control officers should include information on the link between the welfare of animals in the family and child safety and protection.
(c) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature to require reporting and cross-reporting protocols and collaborative training between child protective investigators and animal control officers to help protect the safety and well-being of children, their families, and their animals.
(2) RESPONSIBILITIES OF CHILD PROTECTIVE INVESTIGATORS.
(a) Any person who is required to investigate child abuse, abandonment, or neglect under this chapter and who, while acting in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of employment, knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that animal cruelty, as those terms are defined in s. 828.27(1)(a) and (d), respectively, has occurred at the same address shall report such knowledge or suspicion within 72 hours after the child protective investigator becomes aware of the known or suspected animal cruelty to his or her supervisor, who shall submit the report to a local animal control agency. The report must include all of the following information:
1. A description of the animal and of the known or suspected animal cruelty.
2. The name and address of the animal’s owner or keeper, if that information is available to the child protective investigator.
3. Any other information available to the child protective investigator which might assist an animal control officer, as defined in s. 828.27(1)(b), or law enforcement officer in establishing the cause of the animal cruelty and the manner in which it occurred.
(b) A child protective investigator who makes a report under this section is presumed to have acted in good faith. An investigator acting in good faith who makes a report under this section or who cooperates in an investigation of known or suspected animal cruelty is immune from any civil or criminal liability or administrative penalty or sanction that might otherwise be incurred in connection with making the report or otherwise cooperating.
(3) RESPONSIBILITIES OF ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS.Any person who is required to investigate animal cruelty under chapter 828 and who, while acting in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of employment, knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare or that a child is in need of supervision and care and does not have a parent, a legal custodian, or a responsible adult relative immediately known and available to provide supervision and care to that child shall immediately report such knowledge or suspicion to the department’s central abuse hotline.
(4) PENALTIES.
(a) A child protective investigator who is required to report known or suspected animal cruelty under subsection (2) and who knowingly and willfully fails to do so commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(b) An animal control officer, as defined in s. 828.27(1)(b), who is required to report known or suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect of a child under subsection (3) and who knowingly and willfully fails to report an incident of known or suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect, as required by s. 39.201 is subject to the penalties under s. 39.205.
(5) TRAINING.The department, in consultation with animal welfare associations, shall develop or adapt and use already available training materials in a 1-hour training course for all child protective investigators and animal control officers on the accurate and timely identification and reporting of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect or animal cruelty and the interconnectedness of such abuse, abandonment, or neglect. The department shall incorporate into the required training for child protective investigators information on the identification of harm to and neglect of animals and the relationship of such activities to child welfare case practice. The 1-hour training course developed for animal control officers must include a component that advises such officers of the mandatory duty to report any known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect under this section and s. 39.201 and the criminal penalties associated with a violation of failing to report known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect which is punishable as provided under s. 39.205.
(6) RULEMAKING.The department shall adopt rules to implement this section.
History.s. 7, ch. 2021-170.