What Is Pet Theft Reform?

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\\\ Pet Theft Act – Reform 2021

Updated September 2021

UPDATE – The 3rd Petition instigated by Veterinarian Dr Daniel Allen has reached the required 100,000+ signatures

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

The Proposal is 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.

The Petition number 244530 ran for 6 months and closed with 316,535 signatures where the UK Parliament is obliged to consider for debate all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures. The debate is due in more than a year’s time.

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.

More Information available from the government website https://petition.parliament.uk/archived/petitions/244530

Organisations key to support include doglost.co.ukdogunion.orgvetsgetscanning.co.uk.

Read more about Supporting The Pet Theft Reform Act



How the 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”.

Date closed 20 May 2021

Courtesy © Crown copyright


PET CHECK - BANNER - Home office Pet Theft

3 September 2021 saw the report published by The Government’s Pet Theft Task Force which has now recommended the act of abduction is made a criminal offence.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Stealing a pet is an awful crime which can cause families great emotional distress while callous criminals line their pockets. The new offence of pet abduction acknowledges that animals are far more than just property and will give police an additional tool to bring these sickening individuals to justice”.


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