Maria Caulfield MP has welcomed a new government taskforce to tackle the reported rise in pet thefts across the country.
According to DogsTrust, the price for five of the UK’s most sought after breeds grew significantly during the first lockdown with the price of some breeds rising by as much as 89%. Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increased by 166% in the months between March and August following the start of lockdown last year. Recent police investigations into dog theft have also resulted in numerous raids and arrests on suspicion of theft and animal cruelty.
The new taskforce has been set up to gather evidence to understand the factors that may be contributing to any perceived rise in thefts and to recommend any necessary measures to tackle the problem. The Taskforce will learn lessons from successes in tackling other types of theft, such as mobile phone or metal theft, and how to clamp down most effectively on this illegal market and those engaged in it.
Stealing a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968, with offenders facing a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. If someone causes an animal to suffer in the cause of stealing it from its owner, then they are also liable to prosecution for offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The taskforce will be made up of government officials from Defra, Home Office and Ministry of Justice as well as operational partners such as the police. It will also seek input from animal welfare groups and experts in relevant fields.
The Pet Theft Taskforce will:
• work with police, law enforcement, and experts to understand and tackle pet theft
• consider the issue from end to end, including causes, prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution.
• make clear and timely recommendations on ways to reduce pet theft.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said “Having callous thieves steal a much-loved pet is heart-breaking for families and it is deplorable that criminals seek to profit from this cruel crime. We are already taking action to combat such lawlessness by bolstering the police with 20,000 extra officers but this new taskforce will ensure we know how best to combat the driving forces behind this distressing crime and clamp down on the perpetrators.”
Maria Caulfield MP said “As a cat owner and animal lover, I know the joy and companionship and that pets bring to our lives. Stealing a pet is not the same as stealing any possession, it is taking a loved member of the family and is incredibly heart-breaking for all involved. I welcome this new taskforce and hope that it will reassure my constituents that the government and the police are taking the issue incredibly seriously and will do all we can to stop it.”