The HSUS and Wisc. Dept. of Health & Family Services Release Resource to Help Seniors and Their Pets

The Humane Society of the United States
Thursday, 3 June 2004

The HSUS, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS), has released a new training manual "Creating Safer Communities for Older Adults and Companion Animals." The first of its kind, the manual goes in-depth on common patterns of elder abuse and neglect, animal cruelty and the connections between these problems.

Creating Safer Communities for Older Adults and Companion Animals focuses on the role of companion animals in patterns of abuse, exploitation and self-neglect involving older adults. The manual is being distributed free of charge to social service and animal care and control agencies throughout Wisconsin. It is intended for professionals in the adult protective services, elder abuse and animal protection fields. The Southeastern Wisconsin Area Agency on Aging (SEWAAA) located in Brookfield, Wisconsin provided funding for the initial printing of the manual.

"People often overlook how important companion animals are for older adults," said Dr. Randall Lockwood, HSUS Vice President for Research and Educational Outreach. "Yet nearly half of older couples and a third of older singles have pets. When they are at risk for abuse or self-neglect, the condition of the animals in their lives often provides an important warning sign of problems in the home."

"Elder abuse and neglect are seriously under-reported," notes Sinikka Santala, administrator of the Division of Disability and Elder Services within DHFS. "This material will provide professionals in a variety of fields with the tools to more easily recognize and respond to those who are abused, neglected or at risk. Better understanding of these issues and improved communication can lead to sharing resources and expertise, cross training, improved referrals, and cooperative efforts in identifying, reporting and investigating abuse and neglect."

In addition to the manual, agencies will also receive the brochure: "Making the Connection: Helping Vulnerable Adults and their Pets," prepared by The HSUS and the National Center on Elder Abuse.

"Collaboration between agencies helping people and those protecting animals benefits everyone," said Lockwood. "Working together to respond to those in need, whether human or animal, helps build compassionate communities."

The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services is responsible for child welfare; adoption; services for the elderly; long-term care support including community options; services for persons with sensory, physical and developmental disabilities; alcohol and other drug abuse prevention and treatment; mental health; public health; and the regulation of state nursing homes and licensed childcare facilities. The department administers the state Food Stamp, Medicaid, SeniorCare and BadgerCare programs, as well as other programs to help persons purchase health care.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization with more than eight million members and constituents. The HSUS protects all animals through legislation, litigation, investigation, education, advocacy and fieldwork. The non-profit organization, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2004, is based in Washington, DC and has 10 regional offices across the country.

For more information, or to contact The Humane Society of the United States, see their website at:

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