A new offence of “pet abduction” is being drawn up to tackle a rise in dognapping since the start of the first lockdown last year. This is the primary recommendation from the government’s pet theft task force, which was launched following soaring cases of stolen pets. As demand for pets grew with people forced to spend more time at home during the pandemic, the cost of dogs and cats rose sharply, and soon organised crime groups were coordinating pet thefts to exploit the inflated prices.
Ministers were thought to be considering incorporating a new offence of pet theft into the existing theft act, but rejected the idea after concluding that animals shouldn’t be valued in the same way as property, and that the existing offence was inadequate for prosecuting pet thieves. Government sources say the new offence would acknowledge the “sentience of animals” and, factoring in the loss to the owner along with the welfare of the animal, would carry tougher sentences.