Government taskforce set up to tackle ‘deplorable’ pet theft
A government taskforce has been set up to look into tackling the “deplorable” crime of pet theft.
In March, DogLost, a UK charity that helps victims of dog theft, recorded a 170 per cent increase in the crime, from 172 dogs reported stolen in 2019 to 465 in 2020.
The taskforce will look into what is contributing to the increase in thefts, and recommend solutions to tackle the problem.
It will be made up of officials from Defra, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice as well as the police, seeking input from animal welfare groups and experts.
Stealing a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968, with offenders facing a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Pets are much-loved members of the family, and these reports will be distressing for all pet owners.
“Pet owners shouldn’t live in fear so we’ve set up this taskforce to thoroughly investigate the issue and ensure that we have the measures in place to stop these criminals in their tracks.”
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.”
According to DogsTrust, the price for five of the UK’s most sought-after breeds grew during the first lockdown, in some cases by as much as 89 per cent.
Recent reports have suggested that this could be leading to the increase in thefts.
Dog owners have been advised to avoid leaving their pet unattended while out in public, vary their routines when walking their dogs and should take basic security steps at home such as checking locks on doors and garden gates.
Taskforce partner, Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, said: “Dog theft is a very emotive issue which has a huge impact on families or individuals and we are aware of a growing concern around this issue. The taskforce will support us in understanding this risk and also identifying trends involving serious and organised crime.
“The taskforce will enable us to gather intelligence across the country and tackle groups who work across geographical boundaries. We hope that this is a step forward in providing reassurance that we are committed to understanding any risks fully, and challenging related criminal behaviour.”
The taskforce will aim to publish its recommendations in the autumn this year.