Dramatic rise in pet theft during lockdown gives cause for concern.

In this article, Holidays4Dogs looks at the alarming rate of pet theft in the UK which has been such a significant issue during lockdown, that it was the subject of parliamentary debate on March 16th 2021. Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd Labour) began the debate with her concern about the rise in opportunistic pet theft.  Certainly, in my area of Worcestershire, there have been many reports of attempted and actual dog thefts, resulting in a stronger police presence at specific dog walking spots, where these incidents have occurred.  However, there is insufficient legislation to tackle dog theft as a specific offence and at a time when the police have already taken so many cuts to manpower.

Jim Shannon, (Strangford DUP ) pointed out that value of dogs is now, “absolutely abnormal”, explaining that the previous year his son, who breeds Springer spaniels, sold a dog for a hundred and fifty pounds, while in 2020 the same breed was fetching around two and half thousand pounds. This phenomenal rise in the cost of purchasing a puppy or dog has caused dog thefts to rise dramatically.  Alex calls for better co-operation on dog sales in all regions of the United Kingdom and an end to the dispersal of dogs around the country – or at least much better regulation.

Because the demand for dogs has increased tremendously during the periods of lockdown, Alex points out that there has been an increase in the number of dogs entering the country for commercial reasons, citing the fact that intra-trade health certificates issued for dogs from May to August 2020 was 16,000, which is double the figure for the previous year – these are mind boggling figures and needs serious redress.

Animal welfare societies have an equally big concern about puppy smuggling and illegal transportation into the UK, often in terrible conditions.  On top of this, the Dogs Trust have found that many of these imported dogs are heavily pregnant when they arrive; a tactic employed by puppy smugglers as a means of getting round the ban on commercial third party puppy sales which came into force in April 2020.

Hopefully, as a result of this parliamentary debate in March, Priti Patel announced in April that a ‘taskforce’ would be set up to tackle the dreadful rise in pet theft.  However, as yet, this initiative is only an information gathering exercise to establish what the factors might which are contributing to the rise in thefts, after which, recommendations can be made.

While stealing a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968, with potential offenders facing a maximum seven year sentence, convictions nowhere near match the rate of pet theft.  According to the Pet Theft Reform campaigners, those caught stealing dogs very often only receive a fine and only 1% of crimes ever lead to an actual prosecution.  This, they say, is largely due to the fact that a dog is considered to be ‘property’ and sentencing guidelines for theft classify offences based on the value of the ‘goods’ stolen.  Magistrates can increase fines for items of sentimental value, but campaigners and pet owners alike, say that this does not account for the fact that dogs are regarded as priceless members of the family. Many families go through terrible periods of grief; so great is the impact of having their beloved pet stolen.  As a result of this situation, the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance have called for pet theft to be specifically made a criminal offence resulting in certain imprisonment.  Here at Holidays4Dogs we welcome the implementation of much firmer legislation and harsher sentences for dog theft an have taken further measures to protect your dog while in our care. In the next article we will provide some updated advice on how to ensure your dog is kept safe from opportunist thieves.

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