The Offence of Serious Animal Cruelty in New South Wales

by Sonia Hickey

Domestic Violence is on the rise in Australia, along with trends globally as a result of increased stress, anxiety and financial hardship from Covid-19.

Both here and around the world, those working at the front line of domestic, family and intimate partner violence have held serious fears for victims over the past several months, particularly during lockdown, which further reduces a victim’s access to the outside world, and help, if they need it.

In a recent, tragic incident in Sydney a dog named Rocky had his throat slashed during a domestic dispute. Despite being rushed to the vet, Rocky was not able to be saved.

Woman charged with serious animal cruelty

The woman allegedly responsible to the attack, has been charged with a string of offences including two counts of stalking or intimidating intending to cause fear or physical harm, two counts of contravening an apprehended violence order (AVO), using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend and two breaches of bail.

She was also charged with torturing, beating and causing the death of an animal. Under section 530 of the NSW Crimes Act, this is considered an act of serious animal cruelty which is punishable by up to five years in prison, which states that:

(1) A person who, with the intention of inflicting severe pain–

(a) tortures, beats or commits any other serious act of cruelty on an animal, and

(b) kills or seriously injures or causes prolonged suffering to the animal,

is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty–Imprisonment for 5 years.

(1A) A person who, being reckless as to whether severe pain is inflicted–

(a) tortures, beats or commits any other serious act of cruelty on an animal, and

(b) kills or seriously injures or causes prolonged suffering to the animal,

is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty–Imprisonment for 3 years.

However, law also states that if the act was conducted:

  • in accordance with the Animal Research Act 1985 or any other Act or law,
  • in the course of or for the purposes of routine agricultural such as the extermination of pest animals, or animal husbandry activities,
  • by a veterinary practice,
  • as part of recognised religious practices

then a person is not criminally responsible for an offence.

The woman has not entered a plea, but has been ordered to undergo a mental health assessment.

Family and domestic violence

Family violence is violence between family members, such as between parents and children, siblings, and intimate partners.

Domestic violence is a type of family violence that occurs specifically between current or former intimate partners.

Both family violence and domestic violence include various behaviours:

  • physical violence (hitting, choking, use of weapons)
  • Intimidation – threatening violence
  • emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse (intimidating, humiliating)
  • coercive control (controlling access to finances, monitoring movements, isolating from friends and family).

Sexual violence covers sexual behaviours carried out against a person’s will. This can also occur in the context of family or domestic violence.

Pets – the forgotten victims

Pets are almost always the hidden victims of domestic violence, with many animals tortured and abused and killed each year. Recognising this, an organisation in New South Wales, with international links has been set up to raise awareness. ‘Lucy’s Project’ received an Australia Day Honour in 2018.

Author

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice, and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team.

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