A new law for pet abduction is being drawn up to try to tackle the high rise in pet abductions in the UK, the high rise of pet abduction started since the first lockdown in the UK. In June 2021, the UK parliament debated about the proposals to make it easier to find stolen pets after more than half a million people signed a petition calling for a certain dog theft offence. Currently, pets are legally classed as property, so when they’re taken it’s no different to a stolen phone, laptop or bike.
As the demand for pets grew quick with people having to stay at home during the Global Pandemic, the cost of dogs, cats and other pet animals rose sharply. Once the price started to rise organised crime groups were starting to co ordinate pet thefts to exploit the inflated prices. In May 2021, police figures revealed at least 1,791 offences of dog thefts were recorded in 2020-2021 – an 11% rise on the previous year of 2019-2020 with 1,612 offences reported. Prices for the most popular breeds of dog, such as French bulldogs and spaniels have increased significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The pet theft task force that is made up of government officials, police and campaign groups is finalising its report which is expected to be published in the next few weeks, the report will include recommendations to create a new offence of pet abduction. The proposed offence is also aimed at increasing the number of successful prosecutions. The measure is likely to be added the the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill (PCSC) which is currently going through parliament. The new offence could also allow acknowledgment of the sentence of animals, combining the loss to the owner and the welfare of the animal, leading to tougher sentences. Campaigners have repeatedly complained that those who are caught stealing dogs are often only given a small fine or suspended sentences, campaigners and MPs have been pressuring the UK government for tougher penalties.
PA news agency reports that under the new law, anyone found guilty of the offence could receive a maximum sentence of around five years. A government source told PA: “Instead of making a tokenistic change to the law, we have been listening to Charities, breeders and the police to get a better understanding of what we need to do to tackle this awful crime. Part of the package will be a new offence to better reflect the fact that for most people, pets are not just property and having one stolen is traumatic for both the owner and the pet. A purpose-made new offence will do this and mean those who steal pets will face tougher sentences than they do at the moment.”
Police have advised owners to avoid leaving their dog unattended, to vary their walking routines and to check locks on garden gates and doors.