Dognappers could face five years in jail under tough new rules after spate of pet thefts last year
- Dognappers could be jailed for five years under plans to make it specific offence
- Ministers are planning to add dognapping to Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill
- This news comes as more than 2,000 thefts were reported to the police last year
Criminals who steal a dog could be jailed for five years under plans to make it a specific offence.
Ministers are planning to add dognapping to the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which had its second reading in Parliament last month, following a recommendation from the pet theft task force.
The group was set up in May after more than 2,000 thefts were reported to the police last year.
Dognappers and other pet thieves could be jailed for up to five years under plans to create a new criminal offence (stock image)
Paula Boyden, of the charity Dogs Trust, said: ‘Having your beloved pet stolen is an extremely stressful, often heart-breaking experience.
For years, Dogs Trust has called for harsher penalties to deter those who profit from this despicable crime. We very much hope that the increased sentencing will make pet thieves think twice.’
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said dog thefts made up seven out of ten crimes involving animals.
The new offence would take into account the emotional distress caused to the owner and the dog.
There will also be a provision in the Bill to include other pets in future if evidence supports that.
The UK’s Chief Vet, Dr Christine Middlemiss, said it was ‘an important step’ with dogs being treated ‘as sentient beings rather than merely property’.
‘It would also ‘reassure pet owners that these crimes are being taken seriously’.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The loss of a much-loved pet causes unique distress. I am pleased that we are legislating to recognise this specific crime.
“The new dog abduction offence will reflect the impact on animals in penalties for criminals, and deliver justice for victims.”
David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said pet theft is “devastating” for owners, adding that he hopes the offence will “act as a real deterrent to those who carry out this crime”.
He added: “While the current proposed law applies to dogs, we are really pleased to see the Government has also recognised how much other animals mean to people as well, and put in provision to extend it to other pets.
“We hope this new law, which will see sentences up to five years, will help crack down on the heart-breaking issue of pet theft.”