Pets are much-loved members of their owners’ families. Stealing a pet from a loving home is a particularly vicious crime that the Government takes very seriously. Pet owners should not have to live in fear of theft.
Currently, the theft of a pet is a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968, and the maximum penalty is seven years' imprisonment. While sentencing is ultimately a matter for the courts, they may consider aggravating factors, in line with guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council. Since February 2016, the guidelines take account of the emotional distress, and therefore harm, that theft of a pet can have on the victim, and thus recommend higher penalties for such offences.
Nonetheless, the Government has announced a taskforce to tackle pet theft, and has met with the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to discuss a cross-government approach to combating this issue. I will continue to monitor the situation and look forward to further developments.
It is also worth noting that, if someone causes an animal to suffer in the course of stealing it, they are also liable to prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Government recently legislated in the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act to increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years – the highest penalty for animal cruelty in Europe.