Cat and Dog Theft to Become a Criminal Offense Starting August


by Barbara Csernai



Starting in August, a new criminal offense of “pet abduction” will be enacted in England and Northern Ireland, following the passage of legislation on the final day of Parliament.

However, proposed laws aimed at addressing puppy smuggling and dog attacks on livestock have not been passed in time and will not become law.

Animal welfare organizations have stated they will urge the next government to address these issues.

The Pet Abduction Bill is set to receive Royal Assent soon, with the law taking effect three months afterward. This law will make it a criminal offense to take or detain a cat or dog.

Convictions under this new law could result in fines or a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Currently, pets are legally considered property, and their theft is covered by the 1968 Theft Act. Similar laws apply in Scotland.

Proponents of the new offense argue that it acknowledges the emotional distress caused by pet theft and will help better quantify the extent of pet thefts.

Annabel Berdy, Senior Advocacy and Government Relations Officer for Cats Protection, noted that the absence of specific legal protections for pets has allowed criminals to target beloved animals without significant repercussions. She described the Pet Abduction law as potentially one of the most impactful animal welfare laws in recent times, offering substantial relief to many pet owners.

Animal welfare groups have also voiced concern that two other bills failed to pass before the end of this Parliament.

One of these bills, introduced by Conservative MP Selaine Saxby, aimed to raise the minimum age at which a puppy can be imported into the country.

Harriet Main, public affairs manager for the RSPCA, highlighted that “legal loopholes” have been “exploited for years by those seeking quick profits from animal exploitation” and emphasized that the charity will call on the next UK government to prioritize this issue.

Former Environment Secretary Therese Coffey, now a backbench MP, had introduced a bill to grant police greater authority to prosecute dog owners for attacks on livestock in England and Wales. While “livestock worrying” (which includes barking, chasing, biting, and killing) is already illegal, Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, pointed out that securing convictions is challenging.

Stocker expressed disappointment over the bill’s failure but remains hopeful it will eventually pass, noting that both Labour and Conservative parties recognize the harm domestic dogs can inflict on livestock.

Source: BBC