In the U.K., pet theft was always treated as a simple owner’s property loss, but now ministers want to enact a new law that acknowledges the emotional distress a petnapping can cause.
The proposal is one of a string of recommendations in a report by the pet theft task force to tackle an increase in incidents during the lockdown.
It found that around 2,000 dogs were reported stolen last year.
The task force – comprising government officials, police, prosecutors, and local authorities – received evidence from animal welfare groups, campaigners, academics, and other experts.
Its report found that police-involved dogs recorded seven in 10 pet thefts.
Although offenses under the Theft Act 1968 carry a maximum term of seven years, ministers say there is little evidence of that being used because the severity of the sentence is partly determined by the monetary value of the item taken.
It is not known what the maximum sentence for a new offense of pet abduction might be.
1. The UK plans to make pet abduction a criminal offence, following a rise in reported thefts during Covid-19 lockdowns.— BFM News (@NewsBFM) September 4, 2021
Pet theft is currently prosecuted under the Theft Act and is subsequently treated as loss of property to the owner. pic.twitter.com/ykJpFarkvo
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.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said reports of a rise in pet thefts had been worrying and that owners should not have to “live in fear.”