Pet abduction will be made a specific criminal offence to distinguish it clearly from other types of theft, the Government has announced, as calls are made to include equines in the new legislation.
In May the Government launched a pet theft taskforce, made up of officials from departments including Defra, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, and the Crown Prosecution Service. The taskforce considered evidence from groups including academics, animal welfare organisations and enforcement agencies and this month released recommendations. One of these is the creation of a new pet abduction law. The Home Office also committed to ensuring pet abduction is recorded in a “consistent manner” across police forces, and officials from each department will be able to review the way data is collected.
“The new offence will prioritise the welfare of our pets as sentient beings and recognise the emotional Sdistress to the animal in addition to its owner,” said a spokesman for the taskforce.
The new law, which will be brought in in “due course”, is part of the Government’s action plan for animal welfare announced this year, and follows a parliament debate in October 2020 calling for an amendment to the Theft Act 1968 or for a new offence to be created under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (news, 29 October)
H&H asked Defra whether horses will be included under the new law and Defra said the details are “subject to further consideration”.
“The scope of the offence should include dogs, and the applicability to other types of animal will be explored during the development of the policy,” said a Defra spokesman.
A spokesman for welfare charity Horses and Ponies Protection Association (HAPPA) said the topic of pet theft was close to the charity’s heart following the suspected theft of Welsh mare HAPPA Lottie from her permanent loan home last year. Despite appeals, Lottie has not been found.
“We have been left wondering what has happened to Lottie for more than 12 months,” the spokesman said. “We grow concerned she has entered the welfare system once more, and could be anywhere not receiving the care, attention and love she got from her home. Her family have gone through all the motions many of us would feel at the loss of a pet, but with added angst that they don’t know what has happened to her.
“The impact of dog thefts is heavily documented in the report, but HAPPA would urge the Government to consider the theft of any companion animal. We would be pleased to see this report result in supportive legislation, but to include horses, ponies, donkeys and their hybrids.”
A Blue Cross spokesman told H&H the charity has been campaigning for years to encourage the Government and police forces to take pet theft more seriously and make it a crime in its own right. While the Blue Cross is “delighted” Defra has recognised changes to the law must be made, the charity hopes horses will be included too.
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