Government to endorse MP's pet abduction bill

It is anticipated that the government will support designating the theft of cats and canines as a distinct criminal offence in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

On Friday, the House of Commons will deliberate a measure that would establish the offence of "pet abduction."

Violators of the statute were subject to either a monetary sanction or a maximum of five years in prison. It is believed that ministers are "extremely sympathetic" to the proposal.

At present, pets are regarded as property under the law, and the 1968 Theft Act provides protection for pet theft. Similar laws apply in Scotland. As of yet, legislation establishing the abduction of canines as a criminal offence, as pledged by the government for 2021, has not been enacted.

The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which comprised the aforementioned measures, was withdrawn by ministers in May 2023, inciting opposition from animal rights advocates.

Following the recommendations of a pet theft taskforce formed in response to concerns about dog theft during the Covid pandemic, the initial commitment was made.

"Theft of a pet is a heinous crime that can cause families tremendous emotional distress while callous criminals line their pockets," said then-home secretary Priti Patel.

She stated that a change in the law would recognise the fact that "animals are considerably more than mere property and will provide law enforcement with an additional instrument to apprehend these abhorrent individuals."

The legislation known as the Pet Abduction Bill is being introduced by Anna Firth, a Conservative MP. Low prosecution rates, according to the Southend West representative, make pet theft a "low-risk, high-reward offence."

2013 marked the passing of Toni Clarke, a rural Norfolk resident, and her Siamese cat, Clooney. She harboured concerns that he might have been shot due to the infrequent occurrence of his permits to be released. However, tracker canines failed to locate any indication of his whereabouts.

Ms. Clarke contacted the authorities regarding her missing cat, but they were uninterested. In 2018, she learned that two separate veterinarians had scanned his transponder information without contacting her.

She told the sources that she had never ceased her nationwide search for 14-year-old Clooney or her advocacy for a stricter approach to cat burglaries.

Pet Theft Awareness, her organisation, has advocated for a legal change that would classify canines as "valued living possessions" as opposed to inanimate objects. as well as imprisonment terms for companion theft.

According to a report by the organisation, police-recorded feline larceny increased by 40% in 2021 compared to the previous year and has more than quadrupled since 2015.

Because police forces' willingness to report the crime differs considerably across the nation, Ms. Clarke asserts that the actual numbers are much higher.

Senior advocacy officer at the charity Cats Protection, Annabel Berdy, concurs that it is crucial to include cats in any new criminal offence. Mark Spencer, the minister of the environment, made a commitment in May of last year to implement portions of the Kept Animals Bill that pertained to pet abductions through alternative methods, such as private members' bills.

It is currently believed that ministers are "extremely sympathetic" to the legislation that Ms. Firth is introducing.

The passage of a private members' bill into law is considerably more difficult, but the likelihood increases significantly with government support.