A new offence of ‘pet abduction’ is being drawn up by the government in an attempt to halt the recent increase in dog napping throughout the country.

This new offence of pet abduction will carry greater penalties than theft. Animals feelings will now be taken into account by judges when sentencing pet thieves. The proposal, that has been drawn up by the Government’s Pet Theft Taskforce, endeavours to acknowledge animals are sentient creatures and should not fall under the label of property. Judges will now consider the welfare of the animal in question and the loss to the owner when delivering a sentence. George Eustice, environment secretary, said the taskforce aims to ‘stop these criminals in their tracks’ so pet owners aren’t living in fear.

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, has played a key part in the development of this new offence. Government sources state, ‘We have been listening to charities, breeders and the police to get a better understanding of what we need to do to tackle this awful crime. The current legislation means dog napping falls under the Theft Act. The Government believes the Theft Act is an ‘inadequate tool’ in prosecuting pet thieves.

However, ministers have rejected calls for a Pet Theft Act as there are concerns it would overlap with existing elements of the Theft Act. By creating the new Pet Abduction Offence, it gives the judiciary a ‘blank canvas’ on which to act.

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