Dog abduction, a brand new offence recommended by the Pet Theft task force in August this year and promptly announced the following month, is one step closer to being enshrined into law.
According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), the Government is set to add the offence to the Kept Animals Bill. The announcement comes after years of relentless campaigning for pet theft to be punished with sentences that fit the crime.
The dog abduction offence will carry sentences up to five years, whereas as things stand it is extremely rare for pet theft to result in custodial sentences, as it is legally no more serious than the theft of an inanimate object.
According to research by the Kennel Club, a “jaw dropping” 98 percent of reported cases result in no charges. In more than a quarter of cases, a suspect was identified but “nothing further was done due to evidential difficulties”.
It is hoped that new offence will “take into account the emotional distress caused to both the owner and the dog and will help judges’ ability to hand down more targeted penalties and sentences for pet thieves”.
The announcement only concerns dogs, as the Pet Theft task force found that seven in 10 of the animal thefts recorded by the police involve dogs. However, Defra specifies that “a provision will also be made in the Bill to extend the offence to other pets in the future, should evidence support this”.
David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA, commented, “The theft of a pet is devastating and we’re pleased the Government has announced these amendments which we hope will act as a real deterrent to those who carry out this crime.
“While the current proposed law applies to dogs, we are really pleased to see the Government has also recognised how much other animals mean to people as well, and put in provision to extend it to other pets.
“We hope this new law, which will see sentences up to five years, will help crackdown on the heart-breaking issue of pet theft.”