Co-written by: Georgia Walker
KEY TAKE OUTS
- The NSW Government has introduced legislative reforms which will provide protections to family pets as a standard condition of Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs).
- The Animal Abuse and Domestic and Family Violence report found that 94% of instances of animal abuse occurred as a result of domestic abuse.
- The proposed amendments will also extend the legal definition of intimidation to include harm caused to animals or threats to harm animals.
The NSW government has announced proposed legislative reforms to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 and the Criminal Procedure Act 1986. The “Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill” introduced by MP Mark Speakman will provide stronger protections for victims of domestic violence and will extend Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders to protect family pets.
The Animal Abuse and Domestic and Family Violence report was released on the 27 August 2020 following a review by the NSW Government into the issue of domestic abuse inflicted against pets and livestock. The report found that harm caused to animals by perpetrators of domestic violence was reported by 94% of specialists as the most common form of abuse to animals. Of those who were surveyed, 87.5% were of the view that ADVO laws should be amended so that people could seek ADVOs on the basis of harm to pets, whilst 94% of respondents agreed that there should be mandatory protections afforded to pets under ADVOs.
Following the release of the report, the proposed bill provides legislative recognition of the harm that is often caused to pets in situations of domestic violence, whereby perpetrators of domestic abuse use their victim’s pets as a means of coercive control to intimidate and manipulate. This sort of behaviour occurs mainly after the victim has expressed a desire to leave the relationship and the abusive partner is trying to prevent them from doing so. Sadly, there are also many reported instances where pets are harmed or killed after the victim has left the relationship and the abusive partner is “punishing” them for doing so. Indeed, studies in Australia have shown that many victims of domestic violence delay leaving the relationship due to concerns for the safety of their pets.
With the proposed reforms, pets will no longer be classified as personal property belonging to the person in need of protection under the ADVO, and will instead be afforded protections as a separate entity under the standard conditions in all Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders. Further, amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) mean that the definition of intimidation will be expanded to include harm to pets or threats to harm pets.
As expressed by Mr. Speakman in his second reading speech, “pets and animals are cherished and become quasi members of the family”, therefore, the proposed legislation recognises that pets should also be protected under ADVOs as they are very much a part of the victim’s family.
Along with the reforms, the Government is also allocating $500,000 in funding to programs which facilitate animal shelters housing pets of domestic violence victims. This is a means of providing further support to domestic violence victims and will give their family pets a safe place to be held when fleeing a violent relationship. This will enable victims of domestic violence to leave violent homes without worrying about whether their former partner will harm their beloved pet.
ABOUT LARA MENON:
Lara joined the Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers Legal team in August 2018 and is currently working as a Lawyer in our Criminal and Family Law team.
Earlier in 2019, Lara was selected by the NSW Law Society to undertake an internship with the NSW Coroner’s Court, working as a Judge’s Associate for the Deputy State Coroner.
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