'They deserve our protection': MP on new pet theft law

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is pleased to see an end to the national lockdown - but warned: 'This isn't the end of the struggle.'...

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt welcomed the news that pet theft will become a criminal offence - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich MP says he is "very pleased" pet abduction is to be made a criminal offence, following a spree of dognappings in the county.

The government says it wants to change the law so it reflects the severity of the crimes carried out by pet thieves by taking into account the emotional distress it can cause the animal and acknowledging they represent far more than just property to their owners.

The proposal is one of a number of recommendations made in a report from the government’s pet theft taskforce, which was set up in response to a rise in such offences during the coronavirus pandemic. In Suffolk, the number of reported pet thefts doubled from 16 in 2019 to 32 in 2020.

It is hoped the plans will make it easier for officers to track such incidents and make it harder for thieves to steal and sell pets.

Currently pet theft is not a specific crime and is currently considered as a loss of property to owners under the Theft Act 1968.

The new offence would recognise animal companions as sentient beings.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, who campaigned for the law change, said: "Very pleased that after a long campaign alongside my colleague Iain Duncan Smith and organisations such as the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance appears to have reached a successful conclusion.

"Pet theft has been a low-risk, high reward crime that has caused a huge heartache for many families, whose cherished companions were abducted away.

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"I therefore welcome that convicted offenders can now face seven years of jail for committing this heartless crime, following the recommendations laid out by the Pet Theft Taskforce in its newly released report to the government.

"The introduction of pet abduction as a separate criminal offence is therefore no doubt a welcome change for all pets and their owners. 

"Our pets have been here for us during the tough days of lockdown, helping many of us through those trying days, and now it is our time to be there for them. They deserve our protection.  

"Sometimes as an MP it feels like you're bashing your head against a brick wall when it comes to these sorts of issues, so it is great that on this one we've had such a positive outcome."

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