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​Victim-survivors of domestic and family violence and their animals will be better protected as a result of recent legislative amendments

In November 2020, the NSW Parliament passed the Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2020 which includes a range of amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (CDPV Act). The CDPV Act is the legal framework in NSW for responding to domestic and family violence. 

The purpose of these changes is to recognise and better protect victim-survivors of domestic and family violence and their animals. A number of these legislative amendments will start on 27 March 2021. This includes changing the definition of intimidation in the CDPV Act to explicitly include harm to, or harm threatened to, animals belonging to, or in the possession of, the victim-survivor (or a person they are in a relationship with) as a form of intimidation. Intimidation is a crime with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years. 

The amendments also enhance the protections that can be provided under the CDPV Act as part of an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO). The AVO scheme enables the making of two types of orders - Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders and Apprehended Personal Violence Orders. Mandatory conditions that apply to every AVO will now explicitly state that harm to animals belonging to, or in the possession of the victim-survivor (or a person they are in a domestic relationship with) is prohibited.

All AVOs also contain a prohibition on the defendant stalking, harassing or intimidating the protected person. Changes to the definition of intimidation will therefore also enhance protection against harm to animals under an AVO. Breaching an AVO is a crime with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years.