Pet theft becomes criminal offence as bill rushed through Parliament

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As the Prime Minister announced a July general election last week, barely a month after the Pet Abduction Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons, campaigners across the UK feared that the bill may be dropped. Some feared there may be a devastating repeat of what happened with the Kept Animals Bills, which was suddenly abandoned when it seemed on the cusp of becoming law and eventually dropped.

This time, however, history did not repeat. On Friday 24 May the Pet Abduction Bill, which was introduced by Anna Firth MP, was successfully pushed through the House of Lords. With no other obstacles left, the Bill received the Royal Assent one the same day and is expected to come into force in August.

Under this new law, “anyone found guilty of stealing a pet in England or Northern Ireland will face up to five years in prison, a fine, or both”.

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This is a crowning achievement for campaigners who have long fought to change the current law, which sees the theft of a pet as no different from the theft of material possessions such as a mobile phone or a laptop, and hardly any criminal charges at all.

Long-time campaigner Richard Jordan commented, “It’s taken many years of campaigning from some determined individuals. A group of us set-up the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance a decade ago with Debbie Matthews at the heart of the team.

“An alliance made up from a handful of organisations and individuals with a common goal but from different backgrounds. My input came from Pet Theft Awareness and our main role was to ensure cats were included by providing data. Thanks to Clooney Clarke, this was achieved.”

“Dr Daniel Allen providing a mountain of dog theft data and research. Excellent legal advice came from John Cooper QC, who brought it to our attention that ‘no mention of pets in the 1968 Theft Act but a whole section on taking mushrooms from your garden’! This was a really powerful revelation and I certainly used this information! Beverley Cuddy from Dogs Today Magazine was a fantastic addition to the team and responsible for every MP receiving an excellent printed document.

“What a long road! Lots of lobbying MPs and ministers. Lots of petitions. Lots of speaking to victims and passing on their terrible tragic accounts to politicians. We had cross party support for this. Rishi was actually good on his pledge he made as an MP at the drop-in. It was the private member’s Bill from Anna Firth MP (with Lord Black) who finally got the cause over the finishing line.

“My message to dog and cat thieves is that society wants you locked up and parliament agrees! The next goal is to get horses and other animals added to the crime.”

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