In most places, pet theft is punished the same way as any other theft. Dogs are thought of as personal property by the law, which causes many criminals to get away with nothing more than a fine. But losing a pet is distressing for both the humans and animals involved. So, one country decided it was time for a change.
England is changing its pet theft laws, resulting in harsher punishments. Lawmakers have finally stated that dogs have feelings and should be treated better. So, with these new rules in place, thieves could face up to seven years in prison for pet theft.
A Rise in Stolen Pets
During COVID lockdowns and restrictions, pet thefts increased drastically. About 2,000 pets were stolen in England last year, with the majority of them being dogs. A big reason for that is that more people bought puppies during the pandemic, and prices for desirable breeds increased.
The number of people searching “buy a puppy” on Google increased by about 160% from March 2020 to August 2020. Also, the prices of some dog breeds raised as much as 89%, making those breeds the biggest targets for thieves. Yet, any dog can be stolen, even rescue dogs.
However, the law usually takes pet thefts lightly. Up until this point, pets weren’t recognized as sentient beings when stolen. They were only thought of as property.
“There is growing public feeling that criminal law and the sentencing for offenses involving the theft of pets do not sufficiently recognize an animal as something more than mere property,” the report proposing the new pet theft laws stated.
The maximum punishment for theft is currently seven years, but it’s rarely ever used, especially on pets. The sentence is determined only by the cost of the object stolen. But once these new rules are applied, pets will have more importance placed on them.
Continue Being Cautious
No matter what the laws are, it’s important to remain cautious and keep your dog safe. Even with stricter laws, pet thefts can still occur. Anyone who has lost a pet knows how heartbreaking and traumatizing it can be.
“Stealing a pet is an awful crime which can cause families great emotional distress whilst callous criminals line their pockets,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel. “The new offense of pet abduction acknowledges that animals are far more than just property and will give police an additional tool to bring these sickening individuals to justice.”
Here are some tips to keep your pet safe from theft:
- Never leave your dog unattended in public.
- Don’t follow the same walking route every day.
- Keep microchips up to date.
- Make sure you lock your doors and gates when you leave.
- Avoid posting too much about your pets on social media.
- Spay/neuter your dog.
Pet theft laws in most locations are outdated and need improvements like England’s plans. Dogs are important family members that can’t be replaced, so it’s about time that the law started reflecting that.