Penrith and The Border MP, Dr Neil Hudson, was delighted to see the government respond to calls from him and others for a clampdown on pet theft by introducing a new criminal offence.
As a result of the pandemic the demand for puppies and kittens has increased hugely. According to Dogs Trust, the price for 5 of the UK’s most sought-after breeds grew significantly during the first lockdown with the price of some breeds rising by almost 90%. A number of sources, including animal welfare charities and experts in the field, have hypothesised that price increases may have triggered a rise in pet thefts.
In response to these concerns, the government set up the Pet Theft Taskforce to gather evidence to understand the factors that may be contributing to a perceived or real rise in pet thefts and to recommend measures to tackle the problem.
The taskforce was led by the 3 Secretaries of State from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, and comprised from government officials from each department and representatives from operational partner organisations, who provided additional knowledge, experience and guidance on the practical aspects of reducing pet theft.
Based on the taskforce’s recommendations a new criminal offence for pet abduction is set to be introduced. The new law will recognise the welfare of animals and that pets are valued as more than property and will allow judges to hand down harsher sentences for this cruel act.
Improvements in data collection of pet crimes and improving the recording of ownership will make it easier for the police to track pet abduction incidents making it easier to clamp down on offenders. The Home Office will ensure that pet abduction is recorded in a consistent manner across police forces, while officials from each department will be able to review the way data is collected across the criminal justice system.
Dr Hudson said:
“Stealing a pet is a despicable act and is incredibly distressing for animals and their owners. This new pet theft offence is a step in the right direction and the government is also making it easier to track those who commit this awful crime. We have a duty of care to protect and look after animals with dignity and respect as fully sentient beings.
One of my key campaigns since entering Parliament has been to improve the lives of animals and this is a great start in the protection of them. That said, I would like to see future legislation cover not just pets but other animals like horses and farm livestock. We need to put an end to these dreadful and distressing animal theft crimes. As a vet I feel incredibly strongly about this and our need to protect these animals and their owners.
Furthermore, I am hugely disappointed that Tim Farron and the Lib Dems are putting out misleading material in my constituency on this issue. Animal health and welfare is not something that should be the subject of petty party political games.”