PET abduction will be made a criminal offence under Government plans to crackdown on dognappers.

Ministers want to change the law so it reflects the severity of the crimes carried out by pet thieves by taking into account the emotional distress it can cause the animal and acknowledging they represent far more than just property to their owners.

Earlier this year, The Northern Echo reported the shocking failure to tackle the crime that is devastating 196 families every month in the UK, with only two per cent of cases resulting in a criminal charge.

There were 199 dog thefts in the North East in 2020, but no criminal charges were brought. 

No suspect was identified in two thirds (66 per cent) of these reported dog theft cases in the North East, and in 31 per cent a suspect was identified but no action was taken, due to ‘evidential difficulties’.

Overall, there were an estimated 2,355 cases of dog theft in the UK in 2020, which is an seven per cent increase on 2019 (2,199), according to figures obtained by The Kennel Club. 

READ MORE: Failure to solve ANY dog theft cases in the North East

The Northern Echo:

The pet abduction crackdown is one of a number of recommendations made in a report setting out the findings of work by the Government’s Pet Theft Taskforce, which was set up in response to a rise in such offences during the coronavirus pandemic and amid pressure from MPs across the Commons to impose tougher penalties.

It is hoped the plans will help police crackdown on criminals, make it easier for officers to track such incidents and make it harder for thieves to steal and sell pets.

The report said: “There is growing public feeling that criminal law and the sentencing for offences involving the theft of pets do not sufficiently recognise an animal as something more than mere property.

“We are aware of the calls from some campaigners to recognise that animals are different from inanimate objects through the creation of a new criminal offence, or through a change to sentencing practice.”

Pet theft is not a specific crime and is currently considered as a loss of property to owners under the Theft Act 1968.

Although offences under the Theft Act carry a maximum term of seven years, ministers have acknowledged there is scant evidence of that being used because the severity of the sentence is partly determined by the monetary value of the item taken.

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