Ten months ago to the day, Paw Justice took action against animal abuse in New Zealand and launched a nationwide campaign and petition aimed at increasing penalties for animal abuse.

We are extremely proud to say that these tougher penalties are now a reality.

Convicted animal abusers can now look forward to harsher penalties covering a wider range of offences, significantly longer terms of imprisonment and less rights regarding ownership of animals.

Change such as this does not come about easily, or without the assistance of a great number of people. All New Zealanders who signed our petition and spoke out against animal abuse can feel a proud sense of achievement.

We would particularly like to thank MP Simon Bridges who introduced a private member's bill into parliament, and the RNZSPCA who have been supportive and steadfast in backing this legislative change. By standing together with everyday New Zealanders who love their animals, we have all made a difference.

These changes are just the first important step towards putting an end to the increasingly horrific abuse of animals in this country. Paw Justice will be continuing on its mission of education, advocacy and action in support of animal welfare.

We will continue to support those unfortunate enough to have been victims of animal abuse, and we will continue to look abusers in the eye, and ensure that they know that the animals they have abused do have a voice.

Paw Justice intends to monitor the enforcement of animal welfare laws, and in particular sentencing under these harsher penalties. We will stand together with all compassionate New Zealanders, bringing communities of pet lovers together, educating our young people, encouraging prosecutions, providing practical assistance to the families of abused animals, and standing up for those who could not stand up for themselves.

Well done New Zealand. We are proud.

* Shaughan Campbell is the managing director of animal rights lobby group Paw Justice.