Pet Theft is set to become a criminal offence in Britain following a recommendation by the government’s Pet Theft Taskforce. At present animals are legally treated the same as property, despite the importance of pets to many families.

Estimates suggest that around 2,000 incidents of dog theft were reported to police forces across England and Wales in 2020. Although other pets are at risk, evidence indicates 70% of animals taken are dogs. Pet theft has increased over the Covid period, likely associated with an increase in demand, which has also led to an increase in their price. There is evidence of the price of puppies quadrupling for certain breeds, with some being targeted more than others.

The new legislation will create a new criminal offence of ‘pet abduction’ with a tougher sentence than that which is currently applied. The new law is designed to recognise the sentience of animals, and their significant value to pet owners. New measures will be put in place to improve the tracking of pets that are stolen so that owners can have greater confidence in the system if they do become victims. There will also be a tightening of recordkeeping in relation to ownership and tracking.

Taken together, the above actions by the Conservative government are expected to make pet theft more difficult and less desirable for criminals. They also give families more peace of mind that if they do fall victim to a theft, the perpetrators will be subject to the most robust criminal investigation and toughest punishments.

Worcester MP Robin Walker has welcomed the impact this will have on his constituents following a nationwide spike in pet thefts throughout the Covid pandemic.

Worcester MP Robin Walker said:

“I know from personal experience that pets are not property; they are family members. They are loved and cared for, often in the family home, and losing a pet can have a devastating effect, both for the family and the pet.

“In the West Midlands 123 families lost a pet as a result of theft in 2020 and my heart goes out to each and every one of them. I welcome the support of my colleague John Campion, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia, who has backed the government’s plans.

”I hope these proposals give peace of mind to Worcester residents, as potential thieves will be deterred, and where thieves are successfully identified they know they will face the full force of the law.”

Secretary of State at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustace MP said:

‘We are a nation of pet lovers. Pets are much loved members of the family in households up and down the country, and reports of a rise in pet theft have been worrying. Pet owners shouldn’t have to live in fear, and I am pleased that the Pet Theft Taskforce that we launched earlier this year has developed a series of recommendations to ensure that we can stop criminals in their tracks and give peace of mind to pet owners.

‘Throughout the pandemic, pets have been a source of comfort and company. Sadly, there were an estimated 2,000 incidents of dog theft reported in England and Wales alone in 2020. While it is already a criminal offence to steal a pet, the emotional impact of having a pet stolen is undeniable – on both the owner and the animal. One of the recommendations that we will be developing further is the introduction of a new pet abduction offence, reflecting the fact that pets are not just property. A purpose-made offence for pet theft will ensure that those who steal pets are punished accordingly.

‘We will be taking forward recommendations on microchipping, and exploring new requirements to register more details on dog microchip databases; a single point of access, and; enabling changes of keeper to be tracked more closely.’