Shire Matters with Mark Speakman MP: Unconditional love deserves the protection of the law

There are five million pet dogs in Australia. I have the privilege of sharing my home and life with two of them - Ralph, who has his own Instagram account, and Lucy, a loveable troublemaker adopted from the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home.

The thing I love about them - and our beloved Monty, who crossed the rainbow bridge at age 15 back in 2017 - is the unconditional love we get in return.

There's a scientific name for the way our companion animals make us feel. It's 'the pet effect'. It's one reason I established the Canine Court Companion Program in 11 courthouses throughout NSW (sadly suspended due to COVID-19).

The program, run by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, aims to bring some calm to people possibly experiencing the worst day of their lives. No one goes to court for fun.

The point is, pets mean something. The special place they have in our lives deserves recognition. I'm so pleased to be part of a government that's backing our love for our pets with action.

Last week, my ministerial colleague Adam Marshall declared a crackdown on cruel and illegal puppy farms. He's funding a new RSPCA hit squad to weed out rogue operators who exploit both the dogs they use to breed and people with love to give to a new furry family member.

The love is so intense that sometimes intimate partners or family members leverage that affection by threatening, injuring and in extreme cases killing a pet to intimidate or control a person they're supposed to love.

That's why last week I introduced reforms to Parliament to explicitly recognise that threatening or causing harm to animals is a form of intimidation and to make an express prohibition on that harm a condition of every apprehended domestic violence order.

Our pets give us so much while expecting nothing. We owe them our protection.