UK

UK task force calls for making pet abductions a criminal offence after dognappings surge during Covid lockdowns

The UK Pet Theft Taskforce recommended introducing stricter punishments on Friday after the number of dogs stolen in 2020 rose to around 2,000, as a spike in the price of the household pets caused a surge of dognappings.

In a press release on the UK government’s website, the Pet Theft Taskforce outlined a series of recommendations to help combat the growing problem of dognappings, calling for a new criminal offence to be introduced, as well as improved tracking and recording procedures to help police find stolen animals.

As it stands, pet abductions are treated as a loss of property, which the task force recognises does not reflect the “true severity” of the crime or the “emotional distress” it causes. The recommendation did not say what punishment should be handed to those who steal pets but did state that it must be stricter than current laws allow.

Following the release of the recommendations, UK Environment Secretary George Eustice called the increase in pet abductions “worrying,” accepting that it’s important to ensure owners do not “live in fear.”

Alongside ensuring pet thieves receive harsher punishments, the group advised implementing measures that make it harder for people to steal and resell dogs and cats. The new proposals would require anyone selling pets to provide proof of ID before posting an online advert, and owners would have to register pets with police, providing photos, DNA, contact details and microchip information.

Currently, seven in 10 animal thefts reported to authorities involve dogs, with around 2,000 dognappings recorded in 2020, as the price of some breeds spiked by as much as 89% amid an increase in demand for household pets during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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