MPs have expressed disappointment at the Government’s response to their call to make pet theft a specific criminal offence.
Last month, following a string of petitions with more than 250,000 signatures, the Petitions Committee called for the Government to ensure the value of pets is fully recognised in the law and for pet theft to be made a specific crime.
However, the Secretary of State for Justice Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, has said in a letter published today (Thursday 30) that he is satisfied that current laws cover the crime of pet theft.
This response comes as recent research by DogLost showed thefts surged 65% amid lockdown – compared with the same period last year. The figures will add to concerns raised by pet theft reform campaigners, whose research has shown that the number of thefts is continuing to increase year-on-year.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice, petitions committee chair Catherine McKinnell MP and committee member Tom Hunt MP had urged ministers to ensure that sentencing options available to courts acted as a real deterrent for those who commit pet theft crimes.
The letter also set out options for the Government on how to achieve this, and urged ministers to take urgent action to amend legislation.
Formally responding to the committee, the Justice Secretary acknowledged the impact of pet theft as causing ‘deep distress’ for pet owners. He also said he recognised the ‘strength of feeling among campaigners regarding this issue’ but reiterated that the Government has no plans to take further action in terms of legislation against those committing acts of pet theft.
Expressing disappointment at the response from the Government, chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, said: “Pet theft is a truly callous crime. It strikes at the heart of families and the evidence is showing that every year the Government fails to take action the problem is getting worse.
“With the issue of pet theft now spiralling, it is incredibly disappointing that the Government has decided against taking action and bringing forward tougher sentencing for this awful crime.
“Petitioners have been pressing Parliament and the Government on this issue since 2018, with more than 250,000 signatures on petitions urging action to be taken.
“With significant cross-party consensus and public support on this issue, the Petitions Committee will continue to raise it with the Government and look to ensure there is opportunity to challenge their response by scheduling a Parliamentary debate to ensure the petitioners concerns continue to be heard.”
Petitions Committee Member, Tom Hunt MP, said:
“Pet theft is a particularly cruel crime, robbing people of a cherished source of companionship and causing untold harm to the animals themselves.
“I’m disappointed the Government has set out that it has no plans to make pet theft a specific offence in its response to the virtual discussion I chaired with the campaigners behind the Pet Theft Reform Petition.
“In the absence of a specific offense for pet theft, pets are classed by the law as inanimate objects, with their theft usually resulting in no more than paltry £250 fines. This punishment simply doesn’t reflect the serious nature of the crime.
“I’m firmly of the view that the law doesn’t reflect where the public is on this issue, and I will be pushing for Pet Theft Reform to get the debate in Parliament it deserves after the recess.”