Stronger laws for stealing pets in England, rise in reported dog thefts

Two dogs running in the sun towards the camera, animal news
Dogs, photo: Alvan Nee on Unsplash

The British government will introduce a new criminal offence for pet abduction, they announced on Friday. The new law will recognize the welfare of animals and that pets are more than their owners’ property.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a rise in the number of stolen pets, especially dogs.

Because people wanted dogs during the coronavirus lockdown, the price of some dog breeds increased by as much as 89 percent, making stealing them more attractive to criminals.

“Stealing a pet is an awful crime which can cause families great emotional distress,” said 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,” Patel added.

The new offence is one of several recommendations from a report by the Pet Theft Taskforce, which the government set up in May to examine the issue. Last year, there were about 2,000 dog theft crimes reported.

“Pet theft can leave families in utter turmoil and have serious welfare implications for animals ripped away from everything they know,” Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blake said.

Stealing a pet is already a crime in England, with offenders facing a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, but the new law recognizes pets as sentient beings and not just their owners’ property.

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