The UK Government is set to crack down on pet abductions by turning 'dognapping' into a criminal offence.
Currently by law, pets are only considered property of their owners. However, for years campaigners have been pushing to highlight the emotional distress being stolen can cause animals.
This proposal is part of the many recommendations that appeared in a report revealing the findings of the Government's Pet Theft Taskforce, Mirror reports.
The new pressure from MPs comes amid a surge of animal thefts during Covid lockdowns, as more people went out and bought pets.
"There is growing public feeling that criminal law and the sentencing for offences involving the theft of pets do not sufficiently recognise an animal as something more than mere property,” the report reads.
"We are aware of the calls from some campaigners to recognise that animals are different from inanimate objects through the creation of a new criminal offence, or through a change to sentencing practice."
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood welcomed plans to acknowledge the "seriousness" of the crime.
He added: "We hope this will encourage courts to hand out much tougher sentences to pet thieves."
Pet theft is not a specific crime and is currently considered as a loss of property to owners under the Theft Act 1968.
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Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, who sits on the Taskforce, said its work “means that police forces across the country will now be better placed to respond to pet theft through an improved recording process and a specific crime that recognises pets as valued members of the family with a significant emotional impact”.
She added: “We would also encourage anyone buying a puppy or dog to make sure that they are buying from a responsible and genuine home.
“Advice on checks that can help buyers make the right choices is available through Blue Cross or RSPCA website.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Pets are much-loved members of the family in households up and down the country, and reports of a rise in pet theft have been worrying.
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“Pet owners shouldn’t have to live in fear, and I am pleased this report acknowledges the unique distress caused by this crime.
“Its recommendations will reassure pet owners, help the police to tackle pet theft, and deliver justice for victims.
“We will consider its findings carefully and work with colleagues across Government to start implementing its recommendations.”
Sources said legislation would be brought in “in due course”.
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