|Dogs are ‘personal items’ outrage
The government has called dogs 'personal items' in a response to a petition calling for pet theft to be a specific crime.
In its response to the petition the government wrote, 'Current sentencing guidelines takes account of the emotional distress that the theft of personal items such as a much loved pet can have on victims, and recommend higher penalties for such offences.'
Dr Daniel Allen, who is leading the campaign to make Pet Theft a specific crime, tweeted, 'Today @DefraGovUK chose to respond to the #PetTheftReform petition. They call pets 'personal items', do not acknowledge the welfare of animals involved, and wrongly state seven years imprisonment is available under the Theft Act for #PetTheft. We need 100,000!'
Currently a Pet Theft Bill, promoted by Ross Thompson MP, is awaiting a second reading. As a Private Members Bill it has little chance of making it through parliament without government support.
The rest of the government response said, 'We understand the emotional trauma which the theft of a much loved pet can cause.
'The theft of a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968 and the maximum penalty is seven years' imprisonment.
'In February 2016, the Sentencing Council updated its guidelines in relation to sentencing for theft offences. The guidelines take account of the emotional distress, and therefore harm, that theft of personal items such as a pet can have on the victim, and accordingly recommends higher penalties for such offences.
'All reported crimes should be taken seriously, investigated and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences.
'Since 2016, it was made compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped in England and Wales. This means that there is a much better chance that dogs will be returned to their owners. Vets, re-homing centres and local authority dog wardens scan dogs as a matter of good practice.
'In addition we encourage owners to take precautions to deter the theft of their dog, such as where possible not letting their pet out of sight when it is being exercised; varying their routines when walking their dogs and not leaving their dog unattended in public places.'
At a recent All-Parliamentary Dog Welfare Group (APDAWG) event a packed room in the House of Commons campaigners argued that pet theft cases are not even getting to court and for those that do get to court the pet thieves are being let off without custodial sentences.
Speaking at the event Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today, said, 'Our pets are not things, our pets are part of our family... These dogs are part of us and the law treats them as things.'