LAST month my party colleague, North East MSP Maurice Golden, announced plans to introduce a new law to tackle the scourge of dog thefts in Scotland. At the present time, dogs are recognised as mere objects for the purposes of criminal punishment. That means that their monetary value is what primarily dictates the repercussions that heartless thieves can face when abducting family pets.
Every dog lover will know that it is just wrong to reduce the significance of our canine companions to pounds and pence, and that much tougher punishments are needed to deter those responsible for perpetrating this heinous crime.
In England the UK Government recently announced changes to the law to address this issue – creating a dog abduction offence which will recognise animals as sentient beings, with sentencing taking into account the emotional distress caused to the dog and their owner by these vicious thieves. The move has been welcomed by animal welfare groups including the RSPCA who stated they were “really pleased to see the government has also recognised how much other animals mean to people as well” and the Dogs Trust who said they “wholeheartedly” welcomed the measures the UK Government has taken to tackle pet theft and prioritise the welfare of our pets as sentient beings.
There is no reason why dogs in Scotland shouldn’t be entitled to the same level of protection under the law. However as criminal justice is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, it will require separate legislation to be tabled there. This is where I hope there will be cross party support for the efforts of Maurice Golden. Not only do his proposals ensure that thieves will be punished for the harm they cause to dogs and their owners, but they would also improve the information we have on dog thefts.
One of the problems about this crime is a lack of information, but one organisation – DogLost.co.uk – estimates that dog thefts have increased by as much as 170% over the course of the pandemic. By treating dogs as sentient beings in their own right, rather than simply as property, we can begin to make sure that more accurate records are kept which will help police officers to reunite stolen and lost dogs with their owners.
If you agree that the law needs to be changed in Scotland then please visit Maurice Golden’s social media accounts where you will find a link to his petition on this issue. The more public support for these proposals, the easier it will be to convince MSPs from across the political spectrum that this is a change that needs to happen as a matter of urgency. For the sake of our beloved pets, I hope all politicians can support this change in the law and send a message to thieves everywhere that their callous criminality will no longer be tolerated and they will be punished to the full extent of the law.