Pet Theft To Become A Specific Criminal Offence
Did you know that dog theft is not currently defined as a specific crime. Pets are classed as property under the Theft Act 1968. As animal lovers we all find it really shocking and rather offensive that our beloved pets are treated as mere chattels in the eyes of the law... no higher up the importance scale than property we own. So it was great news yesterday to hear that this is finally being addressed.
Under new plans to change the law, pet abduction could become a specific criminal offence. Under this new law, pets would be recognised as more valuable than property and pet theft could become a crime in its own right with tougher sentences.
Claire Calder, Head of Public Affairs at Dogs Trust, says:
"A specific offence for pet abduction would allow courts to hand out tougher sentences in cases where a pet is stolen. Current sentencing does very little to deter thieves and is determined by the monetary value of the dog, meaning perpetrators are often given fines which do not reflect the emotional impact and trauma that dog theft has on the families involved."
The Pet Theft Taskforce delivered a report with numerous recommendations aimed at tackling the recent rise in pet theft, the Government are working with police to make improvements to the way pet thefts are recorded and new improvements are also proposed to make better use of pet microchips when pets are lost or stolen.
These changes are well overdue but the recent rise in pet ownership during lockdown and the rise in the cost of certain dog breeds have made pet theft, especially dog theft, alarmingly lucrative and therefore common.
The Pet Theft Taskforce has recommended making pet theft a more serious crime than the theft of property. The new law will prioritise the welfare of pets as sentient beings and will recognise the emotional distress to the animal and owner.
This and the other recommendations will "make it far harder for thieves to steal and sell pets, will make it easier for the police to catch them, and will ensure that the impact on the animal is reflected in the sentences or penalties given to offenders".
The Environment Secretary, George Eustice said:
"Pets are much loved members of the family in households up and down the country, and reports of a rise in pet theft have been worrying. Pet owners shouldn't have to live in fear, and I am pleased this report acknowledges the unique distress caused by this crime. Its recommendations will reassure pet owners, help the police to tackle pet theft, and deliver justice for victims. We will consider its findings carefully and work with colleagues across Government to start implementing its recommendations."
The measure is likely to be added to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which is currently going through Parliament.
Please don't get complacent though. It is still important to take sensible precautions to safeguard your dog from being stolen. Never leave your dog unattended on walks or in public, vary walkies times and places, and make sure your home and garden are secure. The Blue Cross have published How to protect against dog theft guidance for pet owners.