NEWS AND VIEWS: Before the coronavirus pandemic, in the UK, the number of dog thefts were declining last year but they’ve increased dramatically by 65.5% during the lockdown compared to the same period last year. There appears to be gangs specialising in dog thefts which have seized on the moment, namely that during lockdown the demand for toy and small dog puppies has increased dramatically because people think they need the company of a companion dog and that they have the time to get to know them during an extended lockdown.
It’s all about supply and demand and the criminals are meeting that demand by being aware of it. Because of this background, there is a petition on the government website to make pet theft a specific crime, which acquired 140,000 signatures. This required that the UK government debate the proposal which duly happened in the House of Commons this month.
The government has made it clear that they have no intention to create a new specific crime of pet theft but Mr Buckland, the justice secretary, is considering amending the sentencing guidelines for thefts of companion animals. In other words, he is thinking of increasing the sentencing guidelines.
One of the key elements behind this thinking is that you can’t equate cats and dogs with other inanimate objects in the home which the law currently does. So if a person steals a cat or dog there is an emotional issue because a person has lost a family member. Conversely, if a thief steals a television the same emotional harm is not done. The increase sentencing is a reflection of emotional harm.
Police chiefs have told The Times that puppies are being stolen to order and it mainly happens in rural areas. Leading pet charities and Members of Parliament are lobbying Robert Buckland for these changes. The most popular breeds to steal our Staffordshire terriers, chihuahuas, French bulldogs and Cocker Spaniels. The call for increased sentencing is supported by the RSPCA. They say that the law needs to acknowledge the personal value of individual pets to each owner.
Daniel Allen who is leading the campaign for reform says that often the thieves are punished with small fines.