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Dog theft to become criminal offence

Thieves will now face far greater penalties after the Government announces new measures

gundog puppies

A new law that imposes severe measures for those found guilty of stealing pets has been announced today, 3rd September.

Pet abduction will become a new criminal offence as the Government follows the recommendations made by its Pet Theft Taskforce, which was formed in May 2021.

The law will recognise that pets are more than property.

“It’s excellent news that the Government is going to fulfil its pledge to tighten the legislation over dog theft: the fact that until now a dog has been regarded as no more valuable to its owner than a mobile phone or similar inanimate possession is ridiculous. One has to hope that the new legislation will not only deter dog thefts, but that the courts will not hesitate to use the powers given to them to punish offenders, commented David Tomlinson – Shooting Times‘ gundog correspondent.

During the pandemic the price of puppies soared, making dog theft more appealing to criminals. Gundog theft was a particular issue, as working dogs are usually well socialised and trained.

Recommendations of the Pet Theft Taskforce

  • The creation of a new pet abduction offence
  • Improved recording and data collection about pet theft
  • Improving ownership and transfer data
  • Tackling fear of crime

The Taskforce has been made up of officials from Defra, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice along with the police CPS, Border Force and Local Government. Academics, animal welfare organisations, campaign groups, enforcement agencies and industry experts have also given recommendations and evidence.

The recommendations will make it far harder for thieves to steal and sell on pets and the more stringent sentencing or penalties reflect the impact on the owners and animals.

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP, commented: “These proposals will make sure police can better identify and track down criminals who peddle in this heartless trade, whilst ensuring they are appropriately punished for their actions.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Stealing a pet is an awful crime which can cause families great emotional distress whilst callous criminals line their pockets.

“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.”

Chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation Liam Bell said to Shooting UK: “It is really good news the government are taking dog theft seriously, and I sincerely hope the proposals become law. Dog theft, while making up only a fairly small percentage of rural crimes, is unarguably the one that affects its victims the most. There is no distinction between working dogs and pets, and the theft of a much loved friend is something many owners never get over.”

Judy Bowden who works with the Dog Lost Facebook group said: “One of my own dogs went missing under strange circumstances in September 2020. The impact on us as a family has been awful, the not knowing soul-destroying. We welcome the new law making it a criminal offence to steal dogs. They are family and when something happens to a family member you grieve … when your dog is stolen you have no closure and the pain and hurt never leaves.”