As a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, pet theftskyrocketed as more people bought furry companions to keep them company during strict isolation. Now, the pet theft task force is pushing for pet abduction to be made a criminal offence in England.
A spike in theft since COVID
As it stands currently, stealing someone else's pet is considered a loss of an owner's property. However, the pet theft task force—consisting of government officials, police, prosecutors and local authorities—want to create a law that will take into account the heavy emotional distress it can lead to.
According to reports, last year alone, around 2,000 dogs were stolen from their rightful owners. Interestingly, for every 10 pet thefts that were recorded by police, seven of them involved canine companions.
More severe sentencing
Stealing a pet would now be treated under the Theft Act of 1968, and seven years in prison is the maximum term a person can serve for having committed the crime. The time in prison largely depends on the monetary value of the item (or pet in this case) taken.
For this reason, the task force is looking to increase the severity of punishment in order to dissuade future theft from happening. Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
Stealing a pet is an awful crime which can cause families great emotional distress whilst callous criminals line their pockets.The new offence of pet abduction acknowledges that animals are far more than just property and will give police an additional tool to bring these sickening individuals to justice.
Although no precise date has been given as to when this new law would come into effect, Diane James, from the Blue Cross animal welfare charity hopes for it to be brought sooner rather than later:
[We] would still advise owners to continue to be vigilant and follow advice to prevent becoming a victim of this abhorrent crime.