Theft Act v Animal Welfare Act

Last year we had the petition to amend the 1968 Theft Act:

‘Reclassify the Theft of a pet to a specific crime in its’s own right’. We asked for an amendment of the 1968 Theft Act, Section 4, Sub-section 4, to include a separate definition for domestic companion animals / pets.

With your help we reached 100,000 signatures in four months.

We had the Pet Theft Debate.

We have MP cross party support.

At the end of the debate, the then Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, George Eustice MP said “Let us use this debate to be absolutely clear 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 was a huge improvement on the interpretation of the Theft Act by the Sentencing Council who prepare the Theft Sentencing Guidelines for the courts and the magistrates and judges up and down the country.

Since the debate Michael Gove MP, Defra Minister, has said, ‘I believe that courts already have the authority to enforce appropriate sentences, without the need for any further extended discretion. As mentioned in our previous correspondence, depending on the nature of the individual case, I consider that pet theft could be treated as a category two or three offence, given the emotional damage owners feel when their pet is stolen.

The Sentencing Guidelines are drafted by the Sentencing Council, which is independent from government. The guidelines apply to offences set out in the law. The theft offence already covers the theft of pets. We note that the revised guidelines take into account emotional distress, which allows for a greater sentence to be handed down.”

The Sentencing Council say: “The Theft Act legislation is a matter for Parliament, so this is not something that falls under the remit of the Sentencing Council. In addition, there are no plans to revise the Theft Sentencing Guideline.”

Please note every reference to ‘pets’ from Ministers does not exist in any legislation, they are categorised as and are described as ‘property’ the same as a mobile phone, although cars, bicycles and railway cable are singled out!

MP Ross Thomson presented a Private Members Bill for Pet Theft Reform, to include Pet Theft in the Animal Welfare Act, which got through to the 2nd Reading, this was in July 2018.

SAMPA’s legal advisor, Professor John Cooper QC drafted the Pet (Theft) Bill for the 2nd Reading in Parliament: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0245/cbill_2017-20190245_en_2.htm#l1g1

To date the 2nd Reading has been postponed twice on the pretence ‘business in the house’.

Time is running out for the Pet (Theft) Bill.

At a recent All-party Dog Animal Welfare Group (APDAWG), SAMPA Meeting, MP advice was:

1. Ask the public to support the proposed Pet (Theft) Bill by starting another petition.

2. Get an MP to start an EDM in Parliament, which is like a petition for MP’s only, to show their support.

If you have read this far, we hope you can see our predicament and understand why a second petition has been started!

We did it before, we can do it again!

Please sign and share, two people can sign using one email address.

#PetTheftReform petition:- https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/244530

Pet Theft Reform: Amend animal welfare law to make pet theft a specific offence.

We propose to amend the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to make pet theft a specific offence, distinct from that of inanimate objects; and in sentencing, the courts must consider the fear, alarm or distress to the pet and owners and not monetary value.

At least 5 dogs are stolen every day in England & Wales. Research by Allen et al (2019) reveals an increase in dog theft crimes, 1,294 in 2015, 1,525 in 2016, 1,678 in 2017; and decrease in court charges related to dog theft crimes, 62 in 2015, 48 in 2016, 37 in 2017.

A strong deterrent is needed. This amendment would ensure on conviction, imprisonment for a term up to 2 years becomes available to courts.

Image from National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT)