Pet Abduction Bill will lead to harsher sentences for dog and cat thieves

The Pet Abduction Bill hopes to address the fact there is no legislation specifically addressing pet theft

A new law to potentially bring in harsher sentencing for people who steal dogs or cats is being backed by government.

The Pet Abduction Bill hopes to address the fact there is no legislation specifically addressing pet theft.

A second reading of the new rule will take place in the House Of Commons on Friday.

Currently when an animal is stolen, in law, it is viewed in the same way as when property is taken.

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This means pet theft cannot be monitored or distinguished from other types of theft.

Southend West MP Anna Firth, who brought in the bill, hopes the new law will mean the "trauma" of having a pet stolen will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

She said in a statement: “I am absolutely delighted that the Pet Abduction Bill has passed its second reading, and will move on to Committee stage.

"As a nation of pet-lovers, it is vital that the law recognises the emotional impact that the abduction of a pet can have, and brings the perpetrators to justice that correctly reflects this.

 “Pets are not merely property like a smartphone or watch – they are part of the family. It is not right that the law does not distinguish this and I am delighted that my bill will redress this wrong.”

The Pet Abduction Bill would create two new criminal offences of dog abduction and cat abduction in England and Northern Ireland.

These would carry a maximum prison sentence of five years.

At magistrates' court the theft of a dog or pet generally goes to a magistrates court, unless violence is used, where the maximum custodial sentence they can administer is six months, Pet Theft Awareness group says. Crown courts can issue sentences of up to seven years.

The Pet Abduction Bill would also provide powers to extend the legislation to cover other pets if necessary.

It comes after public concern there had been a spike in pet thefts during the coronavirus pandemic.

A government task force found there were concerns that an increase in demands for pets, resulting in increased prices, was driving a reported increase in thefts.

Evidence suggests around 2,000 dog theft and over 400 cat theft crimes were reported to police in 2020.

Its conclusion, in September 2021, was that a new offence, pet abduction, should be created that “could switch the focus from the loss to the owner to the welfare of the animal” when sentencing.

Friday's announcement builds upon wider work to protect pets from theft, including making it compulsory to microchip all pet cats and dogs in, making it easier for lost, stray or stolen pets to be reunited with their owners and returned home safely.

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