The Petitions Committee, which Catherine chairs, has today written to Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, Secretary of State for Justice to call on the Government to make pet theft a specific offence.
Catherine and the other Committee members are calling on the Government to ensure the value of pets is fully recognised in the law and that sentencing options available to the court act as a real deterrent for those who may commit a crime that can have a devastating impact on pet owners and families.
Petitions calling for pet theft reform have received over 250,000 signatures in total .
Current guidance by the Sentencing Council does not specifically reference animals, requiring judges to consider whether ‘items stolen were of substantial value to the loser- regardless of monetary worth’ and whether there has been ‘emotional distress’.
The letter calls for the Government to bring forward legislation, by amending either the Theft Act or the Animal Welfare Act to create a specific new offence of pet theft with an appropriate sentencing range to deter thieves, and provide a punishment that reflects the true impact of pet theft.
The correspondence acknowledges that there is already legislation in place to protect animals, including Finn’s Law to ensure service animals are protected, and Lucy’s Law, which cracks down on puppy farming, and that additional legislation on pet theft would be a welcome and important addition to animal protection laws. Both Finn’s Law and Lucy’s Law were subjects of two successful petitions on the issue.
Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP said:
“We are asking the Government to reconsider their repeated refusal to bring forward tougher sentencing for this awful crime.
“Petitioners have been pressing Parliament and the Government on this issue since 2018. The issue of pet theft can have a devastating impact on pet owners and I would urge the Government to watch the discussion to hear from those directly affected.
“Pets are a vital source of company for those experiencing loneliness, and their companionship is more important than ever for those isolating alone during lockdown.
“There is significant cross-party consensus on this issue, and we continue to see this campaign receive significant public support. The Government must bring forward legislation that would create a specific new offence of pet theft that would act as a deterrent and provide a punishment that reflects the true impact of stealing a beloved living creature and companion”.
Read the full letter here.