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Domestic violence victims' pets to be legally protected under new NSW law

The pets of domestic violence victims in NSW will also be legally protected when an apprehended domestic violence order is granted.

A kitten, aged six to eight weeks, looks upward. Source: istock.com

Attorney-General Mark Speakman says the protection of animals will now be automatically included in a standard Apprehended Domestic Violence Order, after reforms passed Parliament last November.

"Perpetrators often use animals to coerce or control victims, threatening to hurt or kill pets to keep them in a relationship or as punishment for leaving," Speakman said in a statement today.

"This cruelty and manipulation can leave victims terrified of the consequences for their beloved animals and can therefore delay or prevent them from leaving a violent situation. These reforms aim to help guard against this abhorrent form of abuse."

Domestic Violence NSW chief executive Delia Donovan said pets were an integral part of some people's lives and perpetrators often used them to gain control, with threats to kill or hurt animals.

"These reforms are essential to improving the safety of people experiencing domestic violence and we wholeheartedly support them," Donovan said.

RSPCA NSW chief executive Steve Coleman said for too long the welfare of animals in domestic and family violence situations had been ignored.

"We are pleased to see ... the opportunity for more services to be equipped to support people and help animals live free from violence and abuse," Coleman said.

The NSW government has also awarded AU$500,000 (NZ$545,000) to 19 women's refuges and animal welfare organisations to help support companion animals and victims escaping domestic violence.