The Government’s taskforce on pet theft is reportedly set to recommend making pet abduction an offence of its own, in what would mark a huge victory for campaigners.
Launched in May after years of relentless campaigning to change the current law – which sees the theft of a pet punished no more harshly than stealing a material possession such as a laptop, and hardly any criminal charges at all – the task force has worked to find a solution to the growing issue.
Victoria Prentis – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – said in June, “In the autumn, following the recommendations of the taskforce, we will work on the legislative and non-legislative measures that can help to deal with pet theft.”
Under the new law, anyone found guilty of pet abduction could receive a maximum sentence of around five years
She added, “Items that we are working on include stopping cash payments, as mentioned by my right hon. Friend [Sir Iain Duncan Smith]; creating a new pet theft offence or offences where necessary; and considering measures on the compulsory scanning of microchips.
“We need to use every available tool in our response to this.”
The task force has yet to publish its full report, but PA news agency reports that under the new law, anyone found guilty of pet abduction could receive a maximum sentence of around five years. Should the Government take this recommendation on board, pet thieves may finally face a more fitting punishment for their crime, which would serve as a deterrent in the first place.
This is a welcome change from July last year when the Government rejected calls to make the theft of a pet a crime of its own, with Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland writing that “the Government is satisfied that the existing law on theft already covers the criminal offence of pet theft”, and therefore “has no plans to introduce a new specific offence to deal with the theft of pets”.
Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, found the decision “incredibly disappointing” at the time. But just over a year on, to the relief of campaigners and dog lovers across the UK, Buckland seems to have changed his mind.
“A pet is not the same as a simple theft,” he now writes. “That is why I welcome the pet theft taskforce’s recommendation of a new ‘pet abduction offence’ to allow our courts to hand out tougher sentences to those criminals who commit this awful crime.”