Stop Pet Theft Petition
Pet theft has been a real worry for pet owners in our area recently. As the demand for pets has risen during lockdown, so has the price of pets – up around 400% on last year for some breeds. That has given criminals the motive they need to steal dogs and other pets whenever they get the chance.
BBC Leicestershire has reported that our area is one of the worst affected in the country. Pet thefts have doubled in the last year. It is important to keep this issue in perspective, however, as 2020 saw only 41 confirmed pet thefts in the Leicestershire Police area.
I know how much my family love our dog Mr Fluffles (pictured above) and would be devastated if he was stolen. Many cat and dog owners feel the same.
Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly true that pet theft is not treated with the seriousness it deserves and reform is urgently needed. Tragically, only 1 in 5 pets that are stolen are ever returned to their owner. Only about 1% of pet thefts lead to charges. That is not good enough.
Punishments are often related to the monetary value of a pet, which means that they do not reflect the distress and heartache that these crimes cause. When a conviction does occur, it usually results in trivial fines rather than imprisonment – no matter how many pets have been stolen.
Although the Theft Act of 1968 allows a maximum penalty of up to 7 years, this never seems to happen. The majority of prison sentences awarded are less than six months. This Act is over 50 years old and may need amendment. Pet theft is Low Risk and High Reward, attracting organised crime.
I will work with our local MPs, we will seek a change in sentencing guidelines to ensure our judicial system recognises the emotional and social value of our pets so that tougher sentences can be applied in our courts. If that approach does not produce tougher sentences for pet theft, it may then be necessary to change the law.
A Dog Trust survey found that 99% of respondents considered their pets to be a family member. Any dog owner knows the real and intense pain felt when their pet is injured, dies or is stolen.
We need to get some action taken urgently to help tackle this problem. We need to improve public awareness of how to reduce their pet’s vulnerability to criminals. I am already campaigning for better communication between the public and police, of which this would be a part.
Some are already doing so. Our local MPs Dr Luke Evans and Alberto Costa are taking an interest. The government has set up a “petfishing” scheme to give helpful advice to would-be pet purchasers on how to avoid buying a stolen pet and find a respectable breeder and dealer. Find details here: https://getyourpetsafely.campaign.gov.uk/