Pet abduction to be made criminal offence to crack down on dognappers

Sad Beagle Dog in cage

Dog thieves could face five years in jail under new proposals. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

New plans which will see pet abduction made a criminal offence could see pet thieves handed a five year jail sentence as part of a government crackdown on dognappers.

Plans would see the law changed to reflect the severity of crimes carried out by pet thieves taking into account the emotional distress it causes the animal as well as what they mean to their owners, with reports this could carry a five year prison term.

In a report by the government's pet theft taskforce, which was set up in response to a rise in offences during the pandemic, ministers say they aim to make it easier for police to track incidents and make it harder for thieves to steal and sell pets.

The report read: “There is growing public feeling that criminal law and the sentencing for offences involving the theft of pets do not sufficiently recognise an animal as something more than mere property.

“We are aware of the calls from some campaigners to recognise that animals are different from inanimate objects through the creation of a new criminal offence, or through a change to sentencing practice.”

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood welcomed plans to acknowledge the “seriousness” of the crime and said: “We hope this will encourage courts to hand out much tougher sentences to pet thieves.”

Pet theft is currently not a specific crime and is considered as a loss of property to owners under the Theft Act 1968.

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The new offence would recognise animal companions as sentient beings.

Although offences under the theft act carry a maximum term of seven years, ministers have acknowledged there is scant evidence of that being used because the severity of the sentence is partly determined by the monetary value of the item taken.

Findings from the report recommend new laws are developed “at pace”.

It is thought the measure could be added to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill which is going through parliament.

Other recommendations include requiring more details when registering a microchip, easier access to the multiple microchip databases in operation to make it easier to track lost or stolen dogs, along with better and more consistent recording of pet thefts as data on the crimes is limited.

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