Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill
(Debate, 17 February 2021, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
Animals are emotionally intelligent, living beings that experience: hunger and thirst; pleasure and pain; happiness and sadness; fun and boredom; and an array of feelings.
They form bonds with other animals of both the same and different species, including with humans. They are capable of communicating with others. Everyone who has had a companion animal can tell when their pet wants a pat or to play, is jealous of another animal or is annoyed at their owner.
Someone who exercises cruelty to animals is exercising cruelty to beings not unlike humans. Indeed cruelty to animals is akin to cruelty to humans, both in terms of the suffering experienced by the victim, and the wilful brutality of the perpetrator.
Animal cruelty entails gratification in, or neglect of, the suffering of another being. It is no surprise that those who engage in animal abuse are more likely to be perpetrators of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and general violence in the community.
Animal cruelty contributes to the suffering in this world and should be stamped out.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill increases the maximum penalties for animal cruelty offences and enables the courts to prohibit someone convicted of a high-level animal cruelty offence from having animals. I support the bill, which brings the animal cruelty penalty system into line with community values.
The bill follows a similar bill introduced in the other place by Animal Justice Party MLC the Honourable Emma Hurst. I thank Ms Hurst for her leadership in this space and for being an untiring advocate for animals. Ms Hurst pointed out that New South Wales currently has some of the lowest penalties for animal cruelty offences in Australia. Because the courts rarely issue maximum penalties, most convicted offenders, even of very heinous crimes, get off with very low fines.
The bill increases maximum fines for animal cruelty offences between three and eight times, depending on the offence, and doubles most maximum prison sentences.
The new penalties will give the courts and infringement officers a better ability to ensure that punishments reflect the true nature of the crime.
Low penalties create a narrative in our legal system that animal abuse is a low level crime, that it is not important and doesn’t warrant the full force of the law. I welcome elevation of the magnitude of animal abuse offences with this bill.
Much of animal cruelty is sanctioned through intensive battery farming, archaic entertainment, and unnecessary experiments for example. Treating animals as mere commodities legitimises the view that they are lesser and therefore do not deserve respect or a life free of pain and suffering. To end animal cruelty, we must treat animals as live sentient beings.
I am committed to working with the Animal Justice Party, the government, and all other members of both houses of parliament to put an end to animal cruelty. The bill is a good move in that direction.