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Closed petition Make dog theft a specific criminal offence

The Government should create a specific offence for dog theft, with 8 years minimum sentencing and a fine of at least £5,000. Dogs are like members of the family to many people and current laws do not reflect this. Dogs are a support network for so many, a family member, a lifeline.

More details

There have been reports of substantial increases in dog theft in recent months, with the most loyal of animals torn away from its family. Thieves think it’s all too easy and the punishment can be nothing compared to the gain with a shocking minority of dogs being reunited with their families.
Dog theft is not currently a specific offence and the crime of theft carries a sentence of up to seven years according to the Theft Act 1968, but this doesn’t target the specific problem which is dog theft.

Dogs should be seen to have their own offence to protect them. Current laws and penalties are not enough justice for the families and dogs that go through this trauma. They protect us, so we will protect them.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

316,545 signatures

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The Petitions Committee decided not to debate this petition

The Petitions Committee has decided not to schedule a debate on this petition.

They have agreed not to schedule a debate on this petition as the central request of the petition is being met with the Government’s announcement of plans to introduce a specific criminal offence of pet abduction, which the Petitions Committee has itself supported calls for, following a number of petitions on this issue. The Committee also debated a similar petition in October 2020.

On Friday 3 September 2021, the Government announced plans to introduce a specific criminal offence of pet abduction, along the lines called for in the petition you signed.

You can read the Government's announcement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pet-abduction-to-be-made-new-criminal-offence-in-crackdown-on-pet-theft

After writing to the Government supporting calls for a specific offence of pet theft, the Petitions Committee debated pet theft in October 2020, in response to another petition calling for this to be made a specific criminal offence.

Read the Committee's letter calling for pet theft to be made a specific offence: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/1502/documents/13678/default/

And read the Government's response: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/2185/documents/20152/default/

You can read a transcript of the debate from 20 October 2020 here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-10-19/debates/7DB00823-5B7F-452D-8F36-B857FEDE682B/PetTheft

You can also watch the debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRtSMPH_zuc

Government responded

This response was given on 20 January 2021

Current court sentencing guidelines for theft already take into account the emotional distress that theft of a family pet can have on owners, and already recommend higher penalties for such offences.

Read the response in full

We understand the emotional trauma which the theft of a much-loved dog 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 dog is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968 and the maximum penalty is seven years’ imprisonment.

If someone causes an animal to suffer in the course of stealing it from its owner, then they are liable to prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The existing maximum custodial penalty for causing animal cruelty is 6 months’ imprisonment. However, there is legislation before Parliament – the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill – which when passed will increase the maximum penalty to 5 years’ imprisonment. This will be the highest penalty for animal cruelty in Europe. The Government will support this Bill as it makes its way through Parliament.

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 a pet can have on the victim, and accordingly recommends higher penalties for such offences.

While the Government takes the issue of dog theft very seriously and is concerned by suggestions that occurrences are on the rise, we consider the legislative tools we have in place to deal with cases of dog theft to be robust and proportionate. However, as Victoria Prentis MP said on behalf of the Government at the recent Westminster Hall debate on pet theft, we continue to keep things under review and are keen to explore ways to address the issue that will be effective and have a meaningful impact on the problem at hand. That includes working with interested parties, including the police and animal welfare organisations to try and get messages across to the pet owners to help them keep their pets safe.

It is important to raise awareness of precautions that owners can take to reduce risk of dog theft and increase the chances of owners being reunited with lost or stolen dogs. For dog owners this includes 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.

The law requires that dogs must be microchipped, and their details recorded on a database. Since we made microchipping compulsory, the proportion 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 have also committed to introducing compulsory cat microchipping.

Owners should report the theft of their dog 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 dogs who become lost or stolen will be returned to their owners if they are microchipped and their records kept up to date.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/taskforce-launched-to-investigate-reported-rise-in-pet-thefts

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.

MPs debate the Pet Abduction Bill

MPs debated the Pet Abduction Bill on Friday 19 January in the main chamber of the House of Commons. This was a Second Reading debate, where MPs debated the general principles of the Bill. The Government said that it supported the Bill, and MPs agreed that the Bill should progress.

The Bill includes provisions to create specific offences of dog and cat abduction, and would give the Government powers to make similar provisions relating to the abduction of other animals commonly kept as pets.

You can read more about the measures included in the Bill in this House of Commons Library Research Briefing.

What is a Second Reading?

Second Reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of a Bill.

At the end of the debate, the Commons decide whether the Bill should be given its Second Reading, meaning it can proceed to the next stage. If there isn't consensus that a Bill should proceed to its next stage, MPs will vote on this.

Find out more about how Second Reading works.

What happens next?

Having passed Second Reading, MPs will now consider the Bill in detail, and can suggest amendments (proposals for change) to the Bill.

Read more about the bill and keep up to date with its progress.

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