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Petition Make pet theft crime a specific offence with custodial sentences.

Pet Theft Reform 2020: Revise the sentencing guidelines in the Theft Act 1968 to reclassify pet theft as a specific crime. Ensure that monetary value is irrelevant for the categorisation of dog and cat theft crime for sentencing purposes. Recognise pet theft as a category 2 offence or above.

More details

Under the Theft Act, animal companions are legally regarded as inanimate objects when stolen. Stolen pets come under theft offences such as burglary or theft from a person. Sentencing is dependent on the monetary value of the stolen animal (under or above £500), and the crime is treated as a category 3 (fine to 2 years in custody) or 4 offence (fine to 36 weeks in custody) in magistrates court.

Pet Theft Reform would make pet theft a category 2 offence with a starting point of 2 years custody.

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Government responded

This response was given on 31 March 2020

The sentencing guidelines now take account of the emotional distress and harm that theft of personal items such as a pet can have on the victim and recommends higher penalties for such offences.

Read the response in full

The Government is sympathetic to the emotional trauma which the theft of a much-loved pet can cause. All reported crimes should be taken seriously, investigated and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences. The theft of a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968 and the maximum penalty is seven years’ imprisonment and so there is no need to introduce a separate offence.

Sentencing is entirely a matter for our independent courts and must take into account the circumstances of each case. When deciding on an appropriate sentence, the courts consider any aggravating and mitigating factors, in line with sentencing guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council. 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.

Since 6 April 2016, all dogs in England and Wales must be microchipped and registered on an approved database by the time they are eight weeks’ old. Since we made microchipping compulsory, the number of dogs microchipped has gone up from around 58% of all dogs in 2013 to over 90% of all dogs. This means that about 8.5 million dogs in the United Kingdom are microchipped. We also advise cat owners to get their cat microchipped and it was a manifesto commitment to introduce compulsory microchipping for cats. As part of this commitment we recently completed a Call for Evidence on cat microchipping which attracted over 3,000 responses. We are in the process of analysing the responses and will publish a summary of the responses together with a way forward in due course.

Owners should report the theft of their dog or cat to the database on which the animal’s microchip is registered, along with the corresponding crime reference number. There is a much better chance that animals will be returned to their owners if they are microchipped and their records kept up to date. Owners can take certain precautions to deter the theft of their dog, such as never letting their pet out of sight when it is being exercised; varying their routines when walking their dogs and not leaving their dog unattended when in public.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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Other parliamentary business

Petitions Committee disappointed at lack of action from Government on ‘spiralling’ pet theft issue

MPs on Parliament’s Petitions Committee have expressed disappointment at the Government’s response to their call to make pet theft a specific criminal offence, following a virtual discussion with petitioners.

Responding to a letter from Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP and Committee member Tom Hunt MP, which urged Ministers to ensure that sentencing options available to courts acted as a real deterrent for those who commit pet theft crimes, the Secretary of State for Justice stated he was satisfied that current laws cover the crime of pet theft.

Read the full letter here:

Read the reaction from Catherine McKinnell and Tom Hunt and find out more about the Committee’s work on this issue here:

Petitions Committee calls on Government to make pet theft a specific offence

The Petitions Committee has written to Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, Secretary of State for Justice, calling on the Government to make pet theft a specific criminal offence. The Petitions Committee is calling for the Government to ensure the value of pets is fully recognised in the law, and that sentencing options available to the court act as a real deterrent for those who may commit a crime that can have a devastating impact on pet owners and families.

This follows a discussion with Tom Hunt MP, a member of the Petitions Committee, and several petitioners and experts.

Read the letter:

Watch the video of the discussion:

Read the transcript of Tom Hunt MP's discussion with petitioners and experts:

The letter calls for the Government to bring forward legislation, by amending either the Theft Act or the Animal Welfare Act, to supplement existing legislation in place to protect animals. This includes Finn’s Law to ensure service animals are protected and Lucy’s Law to crack down on puppy farming, which both were subjects of successful petitions on the issue.

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