Closed 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.

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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.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 19 October 2020

Watch the petition 'Make pet theft crime a specific offence with custodial sentences.' being debated

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

Other parliamentary business

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.

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 member Tom Hunt MP raises the issue of pet theft in the House of Commons

Petitions Committee member Tom Hunt MP has raised the issue of pet theft in the House of Commons.


During Business Questions to the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg MP on Thursday 17 September, Mr Hunt also pushed for debates in Westminster Hall to resume so this issue can be debated in Parliament. Mr Rees-Mogg confirmed that sittings in Westminster Hall, where petitions debates take place, will resume from 5 October. As such, we plan to schedule a debate on this petition as soon as time allows following that date.

Mr Hunt's comments follow a video call with petitioners in which they explained why they are campaigning on this issue, highlighting the serious impact this crime has on families. Parliamentary e-petitions on this issue have received over 360,000 signatures since 2017.

Watch the video call between Tom Hunt MP and petitioners:

You can also get updates on our work on this issue by following us on Twitter:

Petitions Committee schedules debate on petitions relating to pet theft

The Petitions Committee has scheduled a debate on this petition, and one other relating to pet theft, for Monday 19 October.

Watch the debate live (from 4.30pm, Mon 19 Oct):
Read the transcript (available shortly after the debate concludes):
Background reading:

The debate will last up to 90 minutes, and will be led by Petitions Committee member Tom Hunt MP. MPs from all parties can take part, and a Minister from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will respond on behalf of the Government.

What are petitions debates?

Petitions debates are ‘general’ debates which allow MPs from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions, and put their concerns to Government Ministers.

Stay up-to-date

Follow the Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work:

Join in the discussion using hashtag #PetTheftDebate

MPs debate animal welfare and theft during Covid-19

On Tuesday 16 March, MPs debated animal welfare and theft during Covid-19. The Westminster Hall debate was opened by Alex Davies-Jones MP.

Watch the debate:
Read the transcript:

What are Westminster Hall debates?

Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate.

Please note: from Monday 8 March 2021, Westminster Hall proceedings have resumed in hybrid form in a designated committee room. MPs are able to take part virtually or in person. Due to covid-19 measures, Westminster Hall debates were suspended from 14 January 2021 to 7 March 2021.

Government announces taskforce to investigate reported rise in pet thefts

The Government has announced that a Pet Theft Taskforce will investigate the recent reported rise in pet theft since the start of lockdown.

Read the full announcement:

The new taskforce has been set up to gather evidence to understand the factors that may be contributing to any perceived rise in thefts and to recommend any necessary measures to tackle the problem.

The Government has stated that the Taskforce will:

  • work with police, law enforcement, and experts to understand and tackle pet theft
  • consider the issue from end to end, including causes, prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution.
  • make clear and timely recommendations on ways to reduce pet theft.

The taskforce will be made up of government officials from Defra, Home Office and Ministry of Justice as well as operational partners such as the police. The Government has said it will also seek input from animal welfare groups and experts in relevant fields.

Petitions Committee welcomes plans to make pet theft a criminal offence

On Friday 3 September, the Government announced plans to introduce a specific criminal offence of pet abduction, as called for in the petition you signed.

Find out more, including reaction from Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP and Committee member Tom Hunt MP:

Read the Government's announcement:

Leading the debate on this petition in October, Committee member Tom Hunt MP backed petitioners' call for this offence to be created, and called for tougher sentences to reflect the "emotional distress" the theft of a pet can cause.

Watch the debate:
Read the debate transcript: