New Law Introduces Tougher Penalties for Pet Theft and Aims to Raise Awareness for Pet Safety

Currently, stolen cats and dogs are treated the same in law as a pinched iPhone

A new law introducing tougher penalties for those who steal pets has completed its second reading in the House of Commons.

The Pet Abduction Bill, which has been brought forward as a backbench bill by Anna Firth MP (Southend West), will make it a specific offence to abduct a cat or a dog, and could be extended to other pet animals in the future too.

Presently in law, the theft of a cat or dog is treated the same as any other stolen property, such as a mobile phone – highlighting the urgent need for change.

The RSPCA hopes stronger laws will introduce a “real deterrent to those who carry out this crime”.

Now – the law will proceed to Committee stage for further scrutiny and debate.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: “The theft of a pet is devastating and we need tougher laws to act as a real deterrent to those who carry out this crime; cracking down on those who steal people’s much-loved animals.

“We were bitterly disappointed when plans to tackle pet theft hit the buffers when the UK Government binned its Kept Animals Bill last year – but thankfully Anna Firth MP has put this issue back on the agenda and we are delighted this law has completed second reading.

“Pets are members of the family – and it just isn’t appropriate that stealing a cat or dog is currently treated the same in law as stealing a mobile phone or other such possessions.

“Thankfully, this Bill will change that and give more animals the recognition they deserve, which is so important as we seek to inspire everyone to create a better world for every animal.”

The RSPCA also hopes the Bill’s progress through Parliament will help raise awareness of the steps people can take to keep their pets safe – and prevent them from being targeted by thieves.

David added: “As an animal welfare charity, the RSPCA doesn’t deal directly with pet theft – leaving criminal matters such as this to the expertise of police – so we’d urge anyone who believes their pet has been taken to report the incident to police immediately.

“But we’d urge all pet owners to take extra precautions to protect their companions from thieves – by neutering their pets, ensuring they are microchipped with up-to-date contact details registered and ensuring dogs wear a collar with contact details embroidered or an engraved ID tag.

“Owners should never leave their dogs tied up outside shops or alone in cars, ensure their gardens are secure with gates locked, and ensure their dog has a good recall and doesn’t stray too far when off-lead on walks.

“Home security systems are another useful tool in crime prevention – including acting as a deterrent.”

The new law is expected to apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. More information on the RSPCA’s campaigning work for animals can be found online.

This year the RSPCA celebrates its 200th birthday. To mark this special anniversary the animal welfare charity wants to inspire one million people to join their movement to improve animals’ lives. To find out how you can join their million-strong movement for animals visit www.rspca.org.uk/200.

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