The theft of a much-loved pet causes emotional trauma and impacts pet owners and families. The Government launched a Pet Theft Taskforce in May 2021 in response to concerns about a perceived increase in pet theft.
While it is already a criminal offence to steal a pet, the emotional impact of having a pet stolen, on both the owner and the animal, is undeniable. The Pet Theft Taskforce recommended a new offence of pet abduction would best address concerns that the criminal law is only currently capable of treating the theft of a pet as a theft of property.
This new offence would also recognise the potential impact on the pet’s welfare when taken by strangers. The offence as currently drafted in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill focuses on dogs, with enabling powers. The inclusion of the enabling powers means that the Secretary of State would be able to extend the offence to other animals, such as cats. I am aware that this Bill is due to return to the House as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Finally, microchipping became compulsory for dogs over eight weeks of age in Great Britain in 2016. In addition, legislation has been laid to Parliament, delivering on the Government’s manifesto pledge to introduce compulsory cat microchipping for all owned cats. The new rules mean cats must be implanted with a microchip before they reach the age of 20 weeks and their contact details stored and kept up to date in a pet microchipping database. These changes will make it easier for pets to be reunited with their owners if they have gone missing or been stolen.