The 4th September marked the end of the third petition to reach over 100,000 signatures in the last three years demanding that the theft of a pet be reclassified and comes at a time when Dog Lost, the country’s leading pet reunification organisation have seen a dramatic increase in dog theft primarily due to the escalating price of puppies and it has reached such a pitch that police forces and councils around the country are asking dog owners to be vigilant at all times.
Arnot Wilson of the Stolen & Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) said “This increase in theft is set to continue because of the new legislation on breeding and welfare together with charities encouraging the adopting of dogs from rescue centres and the absence of tougher penalties for pet theft. Until the law is rectified I am afraid it’s no longer lock up your daughters but lock up your dogs.”
In July, responding to the Petitions Committee’s letter following the 2019 petition, the Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Robert Buckland said that stealing a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968 for which the maximum penalty is 7 years’ imprisonment.
Dr Daniel Allen, Animal Geographer, of Keele University and author of the three successful petitions said “The 7 years’ imprisonment is totally misleading even the Government agree that the penalty to use their words ‘is largely theoretical unless there are other aggravating circumstances’ so in practice it will never be applied.
As the sentencing guidelines currently stand, it will be impossible to secure a custodial sentence for most pet thefts because of the benchmark value of £500.
Reality is, a custodial sentence is unlikely to apply unless it is a secondary offence used to justify and bolster a harsh primary sentence. This has to be changed and with the Government accepting “pets are sentient beings and more than just property” then it can not be beyond their means to reclassify pets into a category of their own as is the case for motor vehicles and bicycles.
This change would give courts access to appropriate custodial sentences which would act as a deterrent and provide a punishment that reflects the impact of the crime.”
“Third time lucky for our pets?” asks Debbie Matthews, founder of Vets Get Scanning and chairperson of the Stolen & Missing Pets Alliance. She said “Pet owners have yet again demonstrated their wish to see the Theft Act amended to include a separate definition for our pets, this simple amendment is not a big deal for Government to deliver. We desperately need a suitable deterrent to stop this vile crime and the misery that it causes”.
Following the success of the third petition, the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance are asking all pet owners to contact their MPs to get their support to make the Government amend the law. For more information visit their website: https://www.stolenandmissingpetsalliance.co.uk/write-to-your-mp/