Petition Pet Theft Reform: Amend animal welfare law to make pet theft a specific offence.

We propose to amend the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to make pet theft a specific offence, distinct from that of inanimate objects; and in sentencing, the courts must consider the fear, alarm or distress to the pet and owners and not monetary value.

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At least 5 dogs are stolen every day in England & Wales. Research by Allen et al (2019) reveals an increase in dog theft crimes, 1,294 in 2015, 1,525 in 2016, 1,678 in 2017; and decrease in court charges related to dog theft crimes, 62 in 2015, 48 in 2016, 37 in 2017.

A strong deterrent is needed. This amendment would ensure on conviction, imprisonment for a term up to 2 years becomes available to courts.

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Government responded

This response was given on 29 March 2019

Current sentencing guidelines takes account of the emotional distress that the theft of personal items such as a much loved pet can have on victims, and recommend higher penalties for such offences.

We understand the emotional trauma which the theft of a much loved pet can cause.
The theft of a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968 and the maximum penalty is seven years’ imprisonment.
In February 2016, the Sentencing Council updated its guidelines in relation to sentencing for theft offences. The guidelines take account of the emotional distress, and therefore harm, that theft of personal items such as a pet can have on the victim, and accordingly recommends higher penalties for such offences.
All reported crimes should be taken seriously, investigated and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences.
Since 2016, it was made compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped in England and Wales. This means that there is a much better chance that dogs will be returned to their owners. Vets, re-homing centres and local authority dog wardens scan dogs as a matter of good practice.
In addition we encourage owners to take precautions to deter the theft of their dog, such as where possible not letting their pet out of sight when it is being exercised; varying their routines when walking their dogs and not leaving their dog unattended in public places.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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