Closed petition Extend the new dog abduction theft offence to cover cats and all kept animals

The Government should extend the new abduction theft offence for dogs to cover cats, horses and other 'kept' companion animals, many of whom are now regarded as pets and sentient beings and should no longer to be treated as property under the Theft Act 1968.

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The Government accepts that the theft of a pet is devastating but in incorporating the crime of pet theft into the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill it singles out the abduction of dogs & fails to treat cats and other pets as equals. We believe this decision does not reflect the emotional & welfare issues that affect both humans and all animals. The inclusion of all kept animals would be compatible with the Sentience Bill which is progressing through Parliament

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Government responded

This response was given on 8 February 2022

The draft pet abduction offence applies to dogs with powers to extend to cats and other pets via regulations, and the Government is considering views on this expressed at Commons Committee.

Read the response in full

The theft of a much-loved pet causes emotional trauma and impacts pet owners and families. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the prices paid for pets have increased significantly and there were concerns that this was driving an increase in theft. To tackle this issue the Government launched a Pet Theft Taskforce in May 2021 to investigate the apparent rise in pet theft since the start of lockdown.

In September 2021, the Taskforce published its findings and recommendations to tackle the issue of pet theft. The Taskforce found that seven in 10 of the animal thefts recorded by the police involve dogs. Evidence suggests that around 2,000 dog theft crimes were reported to police in 2020, causing considerable distress for owners.  

The Taskforce’s recommendations included the creation of a new ‘pet abduction’ offence to recognise that pets are not mere items of property and to recognise the potential impact on their welfare when they are taken by strangers. The Taskforce also recommended improving the evidence base on pet theft by improving how cases are identified and tracked; improving the recording of keepership on microchipping databases; and tackling the fear of crime through raising awareness about police initiatives and prevention measures. 

Campaigners have been calling on us to recognise that pets are different from inanimate objects, and we are introducing a new offence that focuses on the abduction of dogs in the first instance.

We believe that the new offence better reflects the view that dogs are not inanimate objects but sentient beings capable of experiencing distress and other emotional trauma when they are stolen from their owners or keepers.

The offence as currently drafted and debated at the Commons Committee stage of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill focuses on dogs, with enabling powers. The inclusion of the enabling powers means that the Secretary of State will be able to extend the offence to other species of companion animal in the future by making regulations. Any regulations would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. This means that both the House of Commons and the House of Lords would need to approve such an extension.

The Government listened closely to views expressed on this issue during Commons Committee stage, in particular whether cats should also be included with dogs at the outset, and the Government is currently considering this issue carefully.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs