The Governments’ Pet Theft Taskforce Report – What It Means For Pet Owners

The Governments’ Pet Theft Taskforce Report – What It Means For Pet Owners

In September 2021, the Government published its Pet Theft Taskforce Report after the increasing reports of pet thefts and the growing number of pet owners since the Covid pandemic and lockdowns first began.

This report has looked at data around pet thefts, and what the Government needs to do moving forward to make sure all our beloved family pets are as safe as possible.

  1. Pets invoke an emotional response.

The report states,

“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”

This report talks about how pet thefts are currently treated by various police forces and how the British justice system handles anyone convicted.

As the law currently stands, the theft of a dog (or any pet) is treated as theft of property. This means there’s no acknowledgment or consideration that having a family dog stolen is much more upsetting than having a mobile phone or wallet stolen.

This new report from the Government proposes that the law is updated so the sentience of the animal is recognised. This means it doesn’t matter how much money the stolen ‘item’ was worth, but rather, how much distress to the animal and owner was caused.

  1. Pet thefts must be recorded accurately

Another problem that needs to be overcome is how pet thefts are recorded by the police. As pets are viewed as property, if your dog is stolen whilst they’re being walked off lead, it would be recorded as theft. However, if your dog was stolen whilst they were on the lead, it’s counted as robbery and if they’re taken from your home, it’s burglary.

With so many different ways of recording pet theft, it can be hard to really analyse the data and see where the problems are. The September Taskforce report proposes that pet theft should become its own specific crime.  This crime can then come with its own specific set of punishments that more accurately reflect the damage caused.

  1. Microchipping needs to improve

It’s been a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped since 2016 and as a result, most dogs in the UK are now chipped. This report wants this extended to all cats too so they can also be reunited with their owners more easily.

Right now, there are 16 microchipping data bases that are fully compliant with government guidelines and many more that aren’t. This has led to a lot of confusion around how and where to register new pets and even more confusion when it comes to changing ownership on rescue pets. There are calls to make these databases easier to navigate as well as introducing measures to help crackdown on pet thefts. For example, previous owners should be notified when their pet is registered with a new owner similar to V5 logbooks for cars. This way, if your family dog has been stolen, it will be much harder to sell it onto a new home as you’ll be notified when someone new tried to register them.

  1. Puppy sellers must meet higher standards

Since April 2020, third party commercial puppy dealers are illegal in the UK, this means anyone selling a puppy must be the original breeder and be able to show where the puppy (and ideally the mother) are currently living.

Anyone who sells more than two litters a year must have a valid licence from their Local Authority, these licences are only given to reputable breeders who meet a certain criteria.

This law is to be reviewed in the next two years and the Pet Theft Taskforce Report has questioned whether those breeding less than three litters a year also need tighter regulations.

There’s still a long way to go but for now, it will be reassuring to all pet owners to know the Government is moving in the right direction.


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