Animal rights advocate and Auckland barrister Anita Killeen says the Domestic Violence Act 1995 should be amended to expressly allow protection orders to include companion animals.
Ms Killeen, who started the Pro Bono Panel of Prosecutors for the Auckland SPCA in 2009, says the connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty in New Zealand is very important.
In an interview on the New Zealand Animal Law Association website, she says her recent submission on the public discussion document Strengthening New Zealand's Legislative Response to Family Violence highlights case law and empirical evidence that demonstrates that animal cruelty needs to be viewed within a broader context of criminal offending.
"Animal cruelty can be a marker of family violence and companion animal abuse often co-occurs in the context of domestic violence. The desire to protect companion animals may be a significant barrier to victims of family violence leaving their abuser," she says.
Ms Killeen says her submission also recommends extending the definition of domestic violence to explicity include the abuse of companion animals, where the abuse or threat of abuse is intended to intimidate or harass a family member.