Perpetrators of unthinkable animal cruelty will be subject to an immediate, lifelong ban on working with and owning animals under a new law passed in NSW overnight.
The state became the first in Australia to introduce the tough penalty for animal abusers, following a lengthy campaign run by Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst.
People formerly convicted of extreme cruelty or fetish-related assault such as bestiality were permitted to continue working with or caring for animals in NSW.
Under the new laws, anyone convicted of serious animal cruelty or bestiality under the Crimes Act 1900 will automatically be subject to a mandatory, lifetime animal ban.
The new legislation saw an eight-fold increase in penalties for convicted animal abusers, shifting NSW from the state with weakest animal cruelty laws to the toughest, according to Ms Hurst.
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“Shockingly, no one has ever been banned from animal guardianship or working with animals after a successful conviction of serious animal cruelty or bestiality in NSW,” Ms Hurst said.
“Now those found guilty will automatically be prohibited from having animals in their care or working with animals – for life.”
Since beginning her campaign for tougher penalties two years ago, Ms Hurst said she had witnessed “chilling” cases of convicted abusers being allowed to continue breeding, working with and buying animals.
Former cases ‘inadequately penalised’
“There have been far too many cases where the punishments simply do not match the crimes,” she said.
In one case, the operator of a petting zoo was in 2020 charged after stabbing a dog with a pitchfork six times and hanging it to a tree where it was left for hours to die.
Another person was found to have tortured and killed kangaroos with a knife, while someone else was convicted after firing arrows into a puppy.
“Sadly nobody convicted of these acts have been banned from working with, or having animals in their care, which means animals still remain at risk to these perpetrators today,” Ms Hurst said.
She also alluded to a link between animal abuse and violence towards humans, citing a federal police investigation where 20 men had been charged with more than 1000 offences relating to both child sex abuse and bestiality.
“Allowing these perpetrators access to animals, knowing that they are capable of such acts with minimal punishment, is opening a door for them to repeat-offend,” she said.
“This is a harrowing thought when evidence suggests that animal abuse and human abuse are so closely connected and evident in many cases of domestic violence and child abuse.”
New law celebrated online
Prior to being elected, Ms Hurst worked as a registered psychologist and ran a rehoming service for research animals.
“We are hopeful that the increased penalties, together with our provision of lifetime bans for those convicted of owning or working with animals, will have a significant impact on animal abuse cases in NSW, and more,” she said.
Thousands have reacted in celebration after the news was shared online, with people labelling the legislation a massive win for animals.
“That’s fantastic news, so glad these culprits never get their hands on animals again after these horrible kind of crimes,” one person wrote in a Facebook comment.
“Now fingers crossed the rest of Australia follows these wonderful laws,” another said.