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Petitions Committee calls on Government to make pet theft a specific offence

17 June 2020

The Committee has written to Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, Secretary of State for Justice, calling on the Government to ensure the value of pets is fully recognised in the law, as a real deterrent for those who may commit a crime that can have a devastating impact on pet owners and families.

 

The letter comes following a discussion earlier this month between Committee member Tom Hunt MP, and several petitioners and experts including:

  • petition creator Dr Daniel Allen, an animal geographer at Keele University who has created three petitions calling for pet theft reform, which combined have received over 250,000 signatures.
  • Marc Abraham, vet and animal welfare campaigner
  • John Cooper QC
  • Beverley Cuddy, Editor of Dogs Today magazine
  • Debbie Matthews, founder of Vets Get Scanning and victim of pet theft
  • Freya Woodhall, petitioner and victim of pet theft

 

The letter calls for the Government to bring forward legislation, by amending either the Theft Act or the Animal Welfare Act to create a specific new offence of pet theft with an appropriate sentencing range to deter thieves, and provide a punishment that reflects the true impact of pet theft.

 

The correspondence acknowledges that there is already legislation in place to protect animals - including Finn’s Law to ensure service animals are protected, and Lucy’s Law to crack down on puppy farming - and that additional legislation on pet theft would be a welcome and important addition to animal protection laws. Both Finn’s Law and Lucy’s Law were subjects of two successful petitions on the issue.

Current guidance by the Sentencing Council does not specifically reference animals, requiring judges to consider whether ‘items stolen were of substantial value to the loser - regardless of monetary worth’ and whether there has been ‘emotional distress’. During the discussion, campaigners made it clear that the Government relying on guidance from the Sentencing Council on the level of harm a theft causes is not enough.

 

Further information

 

Image: Wikimedia Commons