Changes to the laws governing dognapping and pet theft have been welcomed by the Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne.
News reports suggested longer sentences were likely for dognappers and pet thieves after the government’s Pet Theft Taskforce published its findings and recommendations.
Mrs Bourne was a member of the Pet Theft Taskforce and said: “I am delighted that the Taskforce recognises how pets are more like family members than property for most owners.
“The emotional impact of having a pet stolen is a driving factor in proposing a specific offence of abduction.
“The new pet abduction offence will reassure owners that Government and police take pet theft seriously.”
She welcomed cabinet minister George Eustice to Sussex to mark the publication of the Pet Theft Taskforce report.
Mr Eustice, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, said: “Reports of a rise in pet theft have been worrying.
“Pet owners shouldn’t have to live in fear and I am pleased this report acknowledges the unique distress caused by this crime.”
Inspector Oli Fisher and Sergeant Tom Carter talked Mr Eustice through recent operations investigating dog theft and puppy farming offences.
They highlighted the enormous sums of money that criminals were making, with desperate families handing over sometimes thousands of pounds in cash to secure a puppy.
Detective Constable Sharon Rintoul spoke about the recovery of 10 dogs by detectives from Crawley, with work continuing to identify their owners. A suspect has been released under investigation.
The key proposals made by the Taskforce included more consistent recording of pet thefts and better sharing of information between police forces and the wider criminal justice system.
Mrs Bourne added: “There will also be improvements to the recording of pet ownership and transfer of ownership with more information stored on the current 16 dog microchip databases, creating a single point of data access.
“The Taskforce’s recommendations are part of the government’s plans to make the UK a global leader in animal welfare with new measures to tackle illegal smuggling of dogs and puppies.”
To read the Pet Theft Taskforce report, click here.
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