Write to, or email, your local MP: The Pet Theft debate was held on 2nd July 2018, at 4.30 in Westminster Hall. This template letter is asking for your MP to support #PetTheftReform to protect our pets with clear guidelines not an interpretation of a lax theft Act:-
It’s really easy to write to or email your MP and your help will go a long way: here’s what to do:-
To find your MP, enter your postcode and hit next to find their constituents address and email address. Just click on this link:- http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
Request from your constituent (add your name, address and postcode)
This issue is important to me because (personalise your request)
I recently signed the #PetTheftPetition to reclassify the theft of a pet to a specific crime in its own right and I’m happy to tell you it has achieved the required 100,000 signatures in just four months and was debated on the 2nd July 2018 at 4.30 in Westminster Hall. Since the debate, support for pet theft reform has continued to grow. Ross Thomson MP’s Pets (Theft) Bill has reached second reading, and the big animal welfare charities have started collaborating on the issue.
The aims of the petition:-
• Reclassify the theft of a pet to a specific crime in its own right.
• Review the sentencing guidelines for theft offences, so that where the theft of a family pet is involved, monetary value is irrelevant for the categorisation of the crime for sentencing purposes.
• Ensure that Police Forces are given appropriate guidance and training to recognise the need to properly record and investigate cases of pet theft.
Link to Dr Daniel Allen’s petition with Hansard transcript and debate :- https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/212174
This is a copy of the document brief which was sent to all MPs prior to the debate:- http://bit.ly/PETTHEFTDEBATE
The 1968 Theft Act does not deal adequately with the theft of pets. The law conflates sentient animal companions with inanimate objects. Financial rewards and no questions asked (illegal under the Theft Act) have replaced legal enforcement. This law is outdated and needs to be amended.
We think Pet Theft Reform could be achieved by:-
1. An amendment of the Theft Act 1968 Section 4, Sub-section 4, to include a seperate definition for domestic companion animals / pets.
2 (a) Reclassify pet theft as a crime in its own right, within the Sentencing Guidance, as is the case with vehicles and bicycles.
(b) Aggravated sentence provision for pet theft to give the courts more extended discretion.
Another consideration is sentencing consistency:- The Animal Welfare Act is being revised to increase sentencing for animal cruelty, it is in the public interest to do the same for pet theft.
The enforcement of the aims of the petition will not require new legislation, as the simple Pet Theft Reform amendments can be included within the existing Act as a general ‘tidying up’. That would be relatively simple if there is the political will to do so, without hours of Parliamentary time or increased police funding.
During the Debate George Eustice, Defra Minister said the government was “not convinced for change”, it was disappointing. But on reflection there are positive points in the government response. First, he said the much-cited 7-year maximum sentence was “largely theoretical for pet theft”. It is impossible to get a 7-year sentence for pet theft alone – will MPs be made aware of this as template letters continue to misinform constituents?
Second, he recognised the collection of accurate pet theft data should be the responsibility of the Government. Is there an estimated date for a report on this? I am currently working with this data and would be willing to help. Accuracy is very difficult without the reclassification of pet theft as a specific crime in itself, as police forces record pet theft differently.
Third, George Eustice stressed “that the Government interpret the latest guidance from the Sentencing Council that the theft of a pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence.” This third point is really important. Category two is 25 weeks to 6 years in custody – a custodial sentence. Sadly though, the Sentencing Guidelines does not state this. At present, pet theft is treated as a category three or four offence. Category three is a fine to 2 years in custody. Category four is a fine to 36 weeks in custody. If the Government’s interpretation is “the theft of a pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence,” this must be made “absolutely clear” to magistrates’ courts and in the Sentencing Guidelines.
Can you please confirm that:
(1) The point that “the theft of a pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence” will be confirmed with an official public announcement?
(2) Defra have/will clarified/clarify the point that “the theft of a pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence” with the Sentencing Council?
(3) The point that “the theft of a pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence” will be made clear in the Sentencing Guidelines?
(4) Defra will notify the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary that “the theft of a pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence”?
(5) Defra will notify the police that pet theft is now a Category 2 or 3 offence?
SAMPA, do not believe the category change in 2016 is well-known. It certainly is not clear in the guidelines, and sentencing continues to be light for the few pet thieves who end up in court, simply because Pet Theft is not singled out.
Other points George Eustice referred to was pet microchip scanning and ownership. He went onto say there was a ‘presumption’ that the Veterinary Profession scanned and checked microchip registration at a Pets first appointment, to help reunite sold on stolen pets. This is not the case as the British Veterinary Association and The Royal College Of Veterinary Surgeons only RECOMMEND as Best Practice scanning and checking microchip registration and vets set their own practice policies – will MPs be made aware of this as template letters continue to misinform constituents?
Another issue raised by George Eustice when he said ‘In his introduction, the hon. Member for Hartlepool highlighted the fact that, somewhat bizarrely, the Act has a provision for the theft of mushrooms and for the theft of wild animals. He asked why if we can have provisions for those, we cannot have one for pets. The reason why they are pulled out is that it was judged at the time that sometimes there could be doubt about whether a mushroom was public property or private property, and there could be some doubt about whether somebody would have ownership of a wild animal. It is beyond doubt that pets have an owner, so that provision did not apply.’ To correct the Minister we are not owners as our pets are considered as ‘goods and chattels’ and we are only ‘keepers’ under the Dog Microchipping Regulations. A microchip is not proof of ownership and in the county court the judge would decide who the pet would stay with.
Pet theft rips the heart out of families and wrecks lives. The Government interpretation of sentencing would go some way to reflecting this, that interpretation now needs to be confirmed, communicated and implemented in courts. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Feel free to use the template letter including your own feelings and/or experience of your missing or stolen dog, cat, horse or any other pet and include a poster.
MPs are far more likely to reply if they receive personal correspondence from you and don’t forget to ask family, friends and neighbours to write in, as the more letters they receive on one topic pushes the issue to the top of the pile.
Prefer to tweet? You can use the example below, getting your MPs Twitter address from http://tweetyourmp.com/
[@MPname] as my MP, please join @sampauk_ @Dr_Dan_1 for the #PetTheftReform debate on 2 July 2018 in Westminster Hall at 4.30