It is useful to have a set of questions available to guide the assessment of the child’s experiences with animals. The Childhood Trust Survey on Animal-Related Experiences (CTSARE) is a 10 item screening questionnaire for children, adolescents and adults that asks about experiences of ownership, attachment, loss, cruelty and fears related to pets and other animals ( Boat, Loar and Phillips,2008; Boat, 2002). A longer version of the CTSARE has been adapted for use in several studies (Flynn, 1999; Baker, Boat, Grinvalsky, and Geriocioti, 1998; Miller and Knutson, 1997) and is available in a chapter by Boat (1999). The validity and reliability of CTSARE have not been established. This instrument should be used as an interview guide and administered orally so the interviewer can use follow-up questions to obtain additional information as appropriate. The questions that are found in the CTSARE are described below:
• Questions 1 and 2 inquire about past and present ownership of pets. Data support that pets rarely survive more than two years in homes that have few resources and several risk factors for child abuse or neglect (DeViney, Dickert and Lockwood, 1983). Frequently, the inhabitants of these homes list many pets and a high mortality and turnover rate. When asked what happened to all the pets he had listed, one teenager shrugged and said “I don’t know. Either grandma got rid of them or they’re dead.” When several pets have “just disappeared,” a caution flag should be raised that the family may be in need of help. Inability to care for pets adequately may indicate that resources are lacking to care for other family members.
• Question 3 seeks information about whether the child has, or has had, a favorite pet as an indicator of attachment. Lack of any special relationship with a pet may signal a child who is divested from, or never formed, close relationships.
• Question 4 asks about a difficult or stressful time when a pet was a source of comfort or support. Children often readily disclose situations where they felt vulnerable, sad or frightened when they are focused on their pet (Doyle, 2001).
• Questions 5 and 6 address issues of the pet having been hurt, worries about something bad happening to the pet and losing a pet. Responses to these questions can offer a window into the child’s home environment and assist in focusing the intervention.
• Question 7 focuses on the training and discipline approaches used with the pet. Look here for harsh methods of behavior management.
• Questions 8 and 9: Seeing someone hurt an animal can have a significant impact on witnesses. Sometimes a child or adult is prevented from helping a sick or injured animal. This is a potentially devastating experience. It may be important to question others to get adequate information about the child himself hurting animals or pets. Parents, neighbors, or teachers with classroom pets may observe harsh treatment of an animal. Teachers may overhear a child talking about seeing or committing cruel acts, or read about worrisome behaviors around animals in the writings of their students.
• Question 10 underscores the need to know if a child has ever been badly frightened or hurt by a pet or other animal. The trauma of being chased, pinned or bitten by a dog can shape a life-long negative response to dogs. This question also can reveal a home or neighborhood where a child may be at greater risk to be harmed by an animal. Examples include the child having access to dogs that are chained outdoors, dogs that are running freely and the presence of higher risk dogs.
Baker, D., Boat, B.W., Grinvalsky, M.D., & Geracioti, T. (1998). Interpersonal and animal-related trauma experiences in female and male military veterans: Implications for program development. Military Medicine, 163,1,20-25.
Boat, B.W., Loar, L. and Phillips, A. (2008) Collaborating to assess, intervene and prosecute animal abuse: A continuum of protection for children and animals. In F. Ascione, (Ed) International Handbook of Theory, Research and Application on Animal Abuse and Cruelty, West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 393-422.
Boat, B.W.(1999). Abuse of children and abuse of animals: Using the links to inform child assessment and protection. In F.R.Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.) Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention West Layfayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 83-100.
Boat, B.W.(2002). Links among animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence. In I. Neighbors (Ed.) Social Work and the Law: Proceedings of the National Organization of Forensic Social Workers 2000. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 33-45.
DeViney, E., Dickert, J., & Lockwood, R. (1983). The care of pets within child abusing families. , International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems, 4, 321-329.
Doyle, C. (2001). Surviving and coping with emotional abuse in childhood. Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, 6, 387-402.
Flynn, C.P. (1999). Exploring the link between corporal punishment and children’s cruelty to animals. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61, 971-981.
Miller, K.S. & Knutson, J.F. (1997). Reports of severe physical punishment and exposure to animal cruelty by inmates convicted of felonies and by university students. Child Abuse and Neglect, 21, 59-82.