Today the Government will announce details on a new offence of dog theft – helping to crack down on this abhorrent crime as we build back safer from the pandemic.
The loss of a much-loved dog can cause devastation for families and it is right that the law is updated to reflect this unique emotional impact. That is why the Government is setting out the details of a dog abduction offence in the Kept Animals Bill – with offenders facing a prison sentence of up to five years, as well as more targeted penalties, and we are retaining the option to extend the offence to other pets in the future.
The dog abduction offence, announced in September by Defra, will be added by the Government to the Kept Animals Bill, bolstering the raft of measures it already includes to further protect pets, livestock and kept wild animals.
Prior to this new offence, pet theft was treated as a loss of property to the owner. This 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. A provision will also be made in the Bill to extend the offence to other pets in the future, should evidence support this.
By introducing this offence, the Government is following the recommendation of the Pet Theft Taskforce, launched in May 2021 to tackle a reported rise in pet thefts during the pandemic. The new measures form part of the commitment to strengthen the UK’s position as a global leader in animal welfare standards. Since 2010, the Government has brought in mandatory microchipping for dogs to help reunite lost dogs with their owners, introduced additional protection for service animals through ‘Finn’s Law’, and introduced Lucy’s Law to tackle puppy farming by banning the commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens.
Today’s announcement builds on the UK Government’s commitment to revolutionise the treatment of animals in the UK and introduce measures to protect the welfare of animals abroad, as set out in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare. This new offence will bring peace of mind to dog owners across the country while bringing the criminals who commit these cruel offences to justice.
For more information on the Government’s plans to bring forward a new criminal offence for pet abduction in Kept Animals Bill, including comments from the Environment Secretary and the Chief Veterinary Officer, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-offence-to-tackle-dog-theft-moves-step-closer.