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Pet abduction to be made new criminal offence in crackdown on pet theft

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  • Pet Theft Taskforce Presents Report With Recommendations To Address Reported Rise In Pet Theft
  • Government works with police to improve recording and tracking of pet abduction cases
  • Pet microchipping process improvements to make it easier to identify lost and stolen dogs

A new criminal offense for the abduction of pets is expected to be introduced as part of the government’s plans to tackle pet theft following a reported increase in pet theft during the pandemic. The new law will recognize animal welfare and that pets are valued as more than property.

The new offense is one of the recommendations of a report released today by the government task force on pet theft, launched in May 2021. The task force, made up of officials from Defra, the ministry Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, as well as operational partners including the CPS police, border forces and local government, reviewed the evidence from academics, animal welfare organizations, groups campaign, law enforcement agencies and industry experts.

Since its inception, the task force has reviewed available evidence from academics, animal welfare organizations, campaign groups, enforcement agencies and industry experts to help inform its recommendations. .

The report found that seven out of ten animal thefts recorded by police involved dogs. Evidence suggests that around 2,000 dog thefts were reported to police in 2020, causing considerable distress to owners and their pets. The price of some breeds increased by as much as 89% from foreclosure as people spent more time at home, potentially making dog theft more attractive to criminals seeking to profit from the public interest generated. by owning a pet.

The task force’s recommendations include:

  • The creation of a new offense “removal of pets”:

    Pet theft is currently treated as loss of property for the owner, but we know this does not reflect the true seriousness of this crime. The new offense will prioritize the welfare of our pets as sentient beings and recognize the emotional distress of the animal in addition to its owner.

  • Identification and follow-up of cases:

    Reliable data on pet theft is limited and improving the recording and collection of data on these crimes will provide a stronger evidence base for the problem.

  • Improve the registration of ownership and transfer data:

    New requirements to record additional details and a single point of access to microchip databases will allow tracking of lost and stolen dogs.

  • Fight the fear of crime:

    The police will work in collaboration with partner organizations to publicize police initiatives and prevention measures

These changes will make it easier for police to track pet abduction incidents, making it easier to crack down on offenders. The Home Office will ensure that pet abductions are recorded consistently across the police force, while officials in each department will be able to review how data is collected in the department. whole criminal justice system.

Pet chip databases will also be made more accessible as part of the proposals. There are currently 16 microchip databases in England, but the task force found that they can be difficult for pet owners and law enforcement to navigate, making it difficult to track stolen dogs. . Under the new proposals, a single point of access to all databases will simplify and streamline the system and stricter rules will also be introduced in all pet microchip databases to record the transfer of dogs. to new owners to ensure full traceability.

Together, these proposals will make it much more difficult for thieves to steal and sell pets, make it easier for the police to catch them, and ensure that the impact on the animal is reflected in the penalties or penalties imposed. offenders.

The new measures will also allow the government to collect more data on pet theft and raise awareness of police activity in tackling the problem and the steps owners can take to keep their pets safe. pets.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

Pets are highly valued members of the family in households up and down the country, and reports of an increase in pet theft are concerning. Pet owners shouldn’t have to live in fear, and I’m delighted that this report recognizes the unique distress caused by this crime.

His recommendations will reassure pet owners, help police fight animal theft and bring justice to victims. We will carefully review its findings and work with colleagues across government to begin implementing its recommendations.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP said:

Many of us have sought the company of pets during the pandemic, which makes this crime even more cruel.

These proposals will allow the police to better identify and track down criminals who engage in this heartless trade, while ensuring that they are appropriately punished for their actions.

Interior Minister Priti Patel said:

Stealing a pet is a horrific crime that can cause families great emotional distress as callous criminals line their pockets.

The new pet abduction offense recognizes that animals are more than just property and will give the police one more tool in bringing these sickening people to justice.

At the same time, police will continue to work to raise awareness on how best owners can protect pets from the target.

Deputy Police Chief Amanda Blakeman, a partner in the task force, said:

The task force’s work means police forces across the country will now be better placed to respond to pet theft through an improved registration process and a specific crime that recognizes pets as pets. valued family members with great emotional impact ”.

We also encourage anyone who purchases a puppy or dog to ensure that they are buying from a responsible and genuine home. Advice on checks that can help buyers make the right choices is available on the Blue Cross or RSPCA website.

RSPCA CEO Chris Sherwood said:

We are truly delighted to hear the recommendations of the government pet theft task force. Theft of pets can cause families to be in turmoil and have serious consequences for the welfare of animals ripped off all they know.

The new pet abduction offense will recognize the seriousness of this crime and hopefully this will encourage the courts to impose much tougher sentences on pet thieves. We are also excited that the government wants to simplify the microchip database system and we believe this will help tackle pet theft as well as other animal welfare issues and irresponsible possession of animals. ‘animals in general.

Police advise dog owners to avoid leaving their pets unattended when in public, vary their routines when walking their dogs, and take basic home safety measures, such as checking locks on garden doors and gates. Blue Cross has also published detailed advice for pet owners on how they can protect their pets from theft.

The task force’s recommendations are part of the government’s commitment to further strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in animal welfare standards, as outlined in the Animal Welfare Action Plan , and follow Defra’s recent announcement of new measures to crack down on illegal trafficking in dogs and puppies.

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