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New South Wales could soon update its domestic violence laws to include household pets.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman has proposed changing the current legislation to ensure people can't hurt or threaten to hurt an animal.
People found guilty of animal cruelty can face jail sentences of up to six months and fines of up to $5,500.
Mr Speakman said pets are often used as a form of coercive control that is designed to torment victims of domestic abuse.
"Perpetrators use animals to intimidate, retaliate against, and manipulate victims during the relationship and after separation, as punishment for leaving," Mr Speakman said.
"Animal abuse in domestic violence settings can also delay victims leaving violent situations for fear of having their companion animals left unprotected with perpetrators."
At the moment, if a person organises an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) against a partner, it can only stop them from 'harassing, stalking or intimidating the protected person, or from destroying or damaging their property or the property of anyone with whom they are in a domestic relationship'.
The NSW Attorney hopes the updated legislation will change the definition of 'intimidation' to include harm to, or harm threatened to, animals, as well as ensuring animals will fall under the standard protection of an ADVO.
People can be punished if they are harming a pet under current animal cruelty laws, however, if the crime is committed in the context of a domestic relationship that is specifically trying to control the victim, then they could be charged under these updated domestic violence offences.
The proposal has won the support of anti-domestic violence campaigners, who say it's a sensible approach to a shocking situation.
Domestic Violence NSW Interim CEO Delia Donovan said in a statement: "Feedback from frontline workers indicates that domestic violence victim-survivors often disclose that perpetrators have threatened to harm or kill animals.
"Protecting animals from perpetrators will therefore continue to improve the safety of people experiencing domestic and family violence across NSW."
The bill will be submitted to the NSW parliament this week for consideration.
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