A new law that recognises how pets can be abused as part of domestic violence is another step towards prevention, a Border support group says.
Women's Centre for Health and Wellbeing Albury-Wodonga says the NSW legislation reflects the way perpetrators can control or harm animals as a means of hurting their partner or ex-partner.
Chief executive Teresa Law said her centre had seen this firsthand, with people denying access to a pet and sometimes damaging it as well.
"We had a lady recently, her dog had to be put down because it had been injured so severely that when she was able to get the dog, the vet just couldn't do anything," Ms Law said.
NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said the government's bill, to be introduced in NSW Parliament this week, would amend the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 and expand the conditions of Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders.
The reforms will specify that harm to, or harm threatened to, animals is a form of intimidation and ensure the protection of animals is a standard condition in all ADVOs.
"Perpetrators use animals to intimidate, retaliate against, and manipulate victims during the relationship and after separation, as punishment for leaving," Mr Speakman said.
"Animal abuse in domestic violence settings can also delay victims leaving violent situations for fear of having their companion animals left unprotected with perpetrators."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Ms Law said such abuse exacerbated the mental health and emotional damage experienced by victims and survivors of domestic violence.
"One lady was saying that her partner had picked up their little dog and thrown it against the shed doors and as a result damaged its windpipe," she said.
"People are just distraught by all that stuff happening."
The chief executive said many people formed particularly close bonds with their pets when faced with dysfunctional relationships and violence.
"A lot of times the woman and the children may put more into that attachment with the animal because that's a safe relationship," Ms Law said.
"They're experiencing bad things themselves and they need comfort.
"That attachment is really, really strong and perpetrators know that, it's just another way of striking at them, it's another way of hurting the person, which is what they want to do."
The NSW government said while animal cruelty laws already existed, the reform meant if offences were committed in the context of a domestic relationship, with intent to coerce or control the victim, or cause intimidation or fear, they might be also charged as domestic violence offences.
Ms Law said it was important to hold perpetrators to account in this way to "tighten the circle" on prevention of domestic violence itself.
"If they get in trouble for that and get some consequences, perhaps jail time or whatever happens, that in itself may short circuit the loop," she said, noting that cruelty to animals could also escalate.
"We see it as a red flag and something that is a good indicator to try to remove yourself from the situation if you can," she said.
Mr Speakman also announced a $500,000 one-off grants program for refuges and animal shelters to support companion animals when victims fled violent homes.
Applications for the Pets and Animal Welfare Support grants program can begin this week,
"These funds will enable refuges to become pet-friendly and to enhance the capacity of animal welfare services to provide temporary foster care for animals so women can leave violent homes without worrying their pet will be harmed," Mr Speakman said.