This petition was submitted during the 2015–2017 Conservative government

Petition Mandatory prison time 5 years, for pet theft. Reclassify pets from 'chattel'.

In 2014 pedigree dog theft alone rose by at least 15%. With 12,000 reported stolen or missing. Stolen animals and owners experience enormous distress, pets are family members, whether stolen for breeding, bait in illegal fighting or sale the law sees pets as 'chattel' - property, not live beings.

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Government responded

This response was given on 8 February 2016

The current law and sentencing practice deals firmly with offenders who steal domestic pets and the government has no plans to introduce a new specific offence to deal with the theft of pets.

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The Government is aware of the distress caused by the theft of a much loved family pet. Measures are in place to help to ensure that missing or stolen dogs can be reunited with their legitimate owners. From April 2016 there will be a requirement for all dogs in England to be microchipped and for the details of the dog and its owner to be entered on a database. A key aspect of the new requirement will be that all details must be kept up to date. Once the police have been informed of a dog theft, and a crime reference number has been obtained, the database should be updated accordingly. If a stolen dog is identified through scanning the chip, appropriate steps can be taken to reunite the dog with its owner.

With regard to sentencing for offences of pet theft, the court will decide the sentence in each case subject to the maximum that Parliament has provided and any guidelines by the Sentencing Guidelines Council or the Court of Appeal. Sentencing must be proportionate to the offence committed, taking into account all the circumstances of each case. That is why the sentencing framework generally sets maximum penalties but not minimum penalties. Even when a minimum sentence is introduced, the court retains a discretion not to impose the sentence where it would be unjust to do so in a particular case.

The law in relation to theft covers any type of property, including pets, and the maximum penalty is 7 years’ imprisonment. From a sentencing point of view, the fact that a pet is a living thing does not change the fact that it is somebody’s property. Sentencing guidelines for theft acknowledge that theft which causes emotional distress to the victim, or where the items stolen were of substantial value regardless of their monetary worth, will indicate a higher level of seriousness and the offender should be sentenced accordingly. We recognise the importance that pets play in the lives of their owners, but the current law and sentencing practice already deals firmly with offenders who steal domestic pets. The government therefore has no plans to introduce a new specific offence to deal with the theft of pets.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Other parliamentary business

Get involved with House of Commons Committee inquiry on animal welfare in relation to domestic pets

You may be interested to know that the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee is currently looking into animal welfare in relation to domestic pets, including cats, dogs and horses. It will focus on the Animal Welfare Act which places a legal obligation on owners and keepers of animals to care for them properly. The Committee wants to examine the effectiveness of the Act and its enforcement with regards to domestic animals. It will also look at whether that Act and other existing legislation remains fit for purpose in the age of the internet with regards to the sale of domestic pets.

The Committee is asking for written submissions from people on the following issues:

-The effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 with regard to domestic pets;
-Regulation surrounding the sale of domestic pets, including online sales and advertising;
-Enforcement of current animal welfare legislation, including prosecution of offences by the police, local authorities, the RSPCA and others;
-Comparative approaches to enforcement in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

The deadline for submissions is Thursday 17 March 2016.

You can find out more about the Committee's inquiry here:

You can watch a short video about how Select Committees work here:

You can find out more about how to send a submission to a Select Committee here:

You can follow the EFRA Committee on Twitter: @CommonsEFRA

House of Commons debates dog theft

On Wednesday 2 March, MPs debated sentencing in cases of dog theft. This debate was scheduled following an application from Gareth Johnson MP.

You can watch the debate here:

You can read the transcript here:

You can follow the House of Commons on Twitter: @HouseofCommons

This debate was an adjournment debate. Adjournment debates are half-hour debates that takes place at the end of each day's sitting in the House of Commons. Adjournment debates are held on the motion 'that the House (or sitting) do now adjourn'.

There are other ways you can get involved in the work of the UK Parliament.

Find out how to contact your MP or a Lord, contribute to a Parliamentary Committee, and search for free Parliament events taking place in your local area here:

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You can find out more about the work of the Petitions Committee on its website here:

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