London, September 3
Pet abduction is to be made a criminal offence in England after a rise in reported thefts during the Covid-19 lockdown, the UK government said on Friday.
The theft of a pet is currently treated as a loss of an owner’s property but under a new law in the works, it will be punishable as a criminal offence, taking into account the emotional distress associated with it.
The new law is set to recognise that the welfare of animals and pets are valued as more than property.
“Stealing a pet is an awful crime which can cause families great emotional distress whilst callous criminals line their pockets,” said UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
“The new offence of pet abduction acknowledges that animals are far more than just property and will give police an additional tool to bring these sickening individuals to justice.
“At the same time, police will continue to work to raise awareness about how owners can best protect pets from being targeted,” she said.
The new criminal offence is one of several recommendations in a report published on Friday by the cross-government Pet Theft Taskforce, which was launched in May 2021.
The Taskforce considered evidence from academics, animal welfare organisations, campaign groups, enforcement agencies and industry experts.
“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,” said UK Environment Secretary George Eustice.
The report found that seven in 10 of the animal thefts recorded by the police in Britain involve dogs. Evidence suggests that around 2,000 dog theft crimes were reported to police in 2020, causing considerable distress for owners and their pets alike.
The price of some breeds increased by as much as 89 per cent over lockdown as people spent more time at home, potentially making dog theft more appealing to criminals looking to profit from the spike in public interest in owning a pet.
Under the proposals, pet microchip databases will also be made more accessible. A single point of access to all databases will simplify and streamline the system and more robust rules will also be introduced across all of the pet microchipping databases for recording the transfer of dogs to new owners to ensure full traceability.