Abusing pets is now illegal under the new Domestic Abuse act

Partners who abuse or threaten to hurt pets will now be breaking the law after new rules came into effect in Scotland.

The abuse of pets is now considered domestic abuse as part of a new law in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)
The abuse of pets is now considered domestic abuse as part of a new law in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)

The new Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act came into force today which will see wide ranging changes to what constitutes domestic abuse in Scotland.

Coercive and abusive control is now illegal and the act covers multiple different types of abusive behaviour, including towards pets.

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Abuse against pets

Statistics from the National Link Coaltion in the US show that the abuse of animals is a major red flag and precursor to more severe domestic abuse.

Figures show 71 per cent of abused women in the USA reported their pets being harmed, killed or threatened in order to control or intimidate them.

This sort of animal abuse will now be illegal in Scotland, meaning people who threaten pets as a way to control their partner will be considered to be abusing their partner.

What does the act say?

The act defines coercive and abusive behaviour as being "likely to cause the person to suffer physical or psychological harm", says Det Supt Gordon McCreadie for Police Scotland.

This is a major change for the law and includes behaviour which makes a person subordinate to the abuser, isolates them from support networks such as friends and family, controlling or monitoring their activities, restricting their freedom of movement, and humiliating, degrading or punishing the victim.

The act also extends to property - including pets - meaning any threat to hurt a pet dog or cat or other animal can be considered abusive.

Det Supt McCreadie said: "Behaviour can be directed towards property (including pets) and can include intentionally failing to do something or intentionally failing to communicate something."

This can include not feeding a pet, or not telling a partner their pet is at a friend's house or at the vet in order to control that person.

Need help?

If you are a victim of domestic abuse and need to speak to someone safely, you can call Scotland's Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 or email [email protected]