Pet abduction will be made a new criminal offence as part of a crackdown on pet theft, the Government has announced.
The proposal comes in response to a reported rise in pets being stolen throughout the pandemic.
Under existing laws, theft of a pet is treated as a loss of an owner’s property, meaning the emotional impact of the crime is rarely considered.
While offences under the Theft Act 1968 carry a maximum term of seven years, evidence suggests that sentences are often much lower due to the monetary value of the “item” being taken.
The Government said the new law will “recognise the welfare of animals and that pets are valued as more than property”.
The maximum sentence for the new offence has yet to be revealed, however.
The proposal comes after the publication of the pet theft taskforce report. The taskforce was established in May this year to address a reported rise in pets being stolen during the pandemic.
Alongside a new criminal offence, the report recommends improving recording and data collection on pet theft, improving the recording of ownership and transfer data, and increasing police initiatives and prevention measures.
Commenting on the announcement, 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.”
According to the latest statistics, around 2,000 cases of dog theft are reported to police annually.
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