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Government backs new pet abduction law in pet theft crackdown Published Date: 21/01/2024

A new criminal offence for pet abduction has taken a significant step forward today (19 January) with the announcement of government backing for new legislation.

Under the Pet Abduction Bill - a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Anna Firth MP – anyone found guilty of stealing a pet will face up to five years in prison, a fine, or both.

By supporting the Pet Abduction Bill, the Government is delivering on pledges made in its Action Plan for Animal Welfare.  This recognised that cats and dogs are not inanimate objects but sentient beings capable of experiencing distress and other emotional trauma when they are stolen from their owners or keepers. 

Evidence from the Pet Theft Taskforce suggests that around 2,000 dog theft and over 400 cat theft crimes were reported to police in 2020, causing considerable distress for owners and their pets alike. With an estimated 28% of UK adults owning a dog and 24% owning a cat, pet theft is a major concern to the public.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:

“As a dog owner myself, I appreciate deeply what treasured members of the family dogs and cats are. It is a deeply traumatic experience for both the owner and the pet when they are stolen.

“This vital Bill will recognise the severity of this shocking crime and should act as a deterrent to anyone considering stealing a dog or cat. We will do all we can to support its swift passage through Parliament.”

Anna Firth MP said:

“I am absolutely delighted that the Pet Abduction Bill has passed its second reading, and will move on to Committee stage. As a nation of pet-lovers, it is vital that the law recognises the emotional impact that the abduction of a pet can have, and brings the perpetrators to justice that correctly reflects this.

“Pets are not merely property like a smartphone or watch – they are part of the family. It is not right that the law does not distinguish this and I am delighted that my bill will redress this wrong.”

Today’s announcement builds upon wider work to protect pets from theft, including making it compulsory to microchip all pet cats and dogs in, making it easier for lost, stray or stolen pets to be reunited with their owners and returned home safely.

This builds on the Government’s efforts to enhance our world-leading standards of animal welfare. The UK was the first country in the world to introduce animal cruelty offences and is the highest ranked G7 nation according to World Animal Protection’s Index.  Our flagship Action Plan for Animal Welfare committed us to going even further to protect animals.

The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill – which is only possible now we have left the European Union – was introduced to Parliament last month and will put an end to the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain, stopping animals enduring unnecessary stress, exhaustion and injury on long journeys.

Since publishing the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021, we have also brought in new laws to recognise animal sentience, introduced tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences; extended the ivory ban to cover other ivory bearing species; introduced legislation to ban the keeping of primates as pets and supported legislation to ban glue traps, the import of detached shark fins and measures to ban the advertising and offering for sale of low welfare activities abroad.