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Pet theft is a real issue

April 4, 2021 10:39 PM

Wiltshire Liberal Democrats candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner, Liz Webster, is runnning a high profile campaign highlighting the incidence of pet theft.

Liz says "Last year, I noticed a sudden increase on my local social media posts about dogs being stolen which motivated me to start investigating what was going on. The more I learnt the more horrified I became. I am an animal lover and dog owner and a seasoned campaigner, so I decided to launch a campaign in Wiltshire as it was clear the police were not taking pet theft seriously.

So I joined forces with other - long established - pet theft campaigns. When plans for an outdoor event for Pet Theft Awareness Week were thwarted by Lockdown Three, I was inspired to do a virtual dog rally, which i'm calling DogZoom

Incidents of pet theft are increasing every day because the lockdown has driven demand for pet ownership which has in turn made the cost of pets soar. The law is inadequate and for criminals pet napping is low risk with big dividends as some breeds are now reaching £2,000 to £3,000 per dog. Dogs are stolen to breed from in puppy farms, but they are also sold on the internet with heart rendering tales which are fabricated. - Liz Webster

Wiltshire Times has picked up the campaign and ran a story two days ago highlighting the dogs most vulnerable to theft.

The dogs most vulnerable to theft in the UK - is your dog on the list? | Wiltshire Times

The law is letting us down. The theft of a pet in the eyes of the law is the same as stealing a low value household item. Bicycle theft has more priority of pet theft as the police are required to keep a record of the numbers of bicycles stolen. If your house is burgled and the dog stolen, there is no requirement for the police to record this heart breaking crime.

We need the Government to change the law. And we need the public to be more informed when making choices to own a pet. Add to that we need to inform pet owners on steps they can take to protect themselves from criminals.

Experiences from victims of pet theft, advice from experts on how to protect your pets, ways you can get involved and help make a change and there's messages from surprise, pet-loving celebrities and politicians too.

In conjunction with the Stolen and Missing Pet Alliance (SAMPA) and DogLost, we are calling for Pet Theft Reform. The current law is inadequate and there is currently no separate category for pet theft in the 1968 Theft Act.

Are pets really just property?

Pets are seen as property or a possession that can be easily be replaced. We disagree with this; our pets are irreplaceable and valued members of our families. They are loved, cherished, unique sentient beings.

Pet theft is currently treated the same way as having your mobile phone or laptop stolen. It can be difficult for owners to obtain a crime reference number and the theft is seldom investigated.

If caught, pet thieves are normally given a small fine and - at best - a suspended sentence. There is currently no deterrent.

Prevention and advice is top of the agenda while explaining why we need tougher laws to act as a deterrent to protect our dogs and all domestic pets.

No one is safe from this crime, which hits families and the elderly. The loss of a companion and family member is devastating.

SAMPA has been campaigning since 2014 for a simple amendment to the Theft Act, to include a separate definition for our domestic pets. We need #PetTheftReform to give courts access to appropriate custodial sentences to act as a deterrent, provide punishment, and protect the public.

Over the last four years, we have seen Dog Theft cases increase but 2020 surpassed any expectations, with demands for dogs increasing during Covid lockdown. Co-founders of SAMPA, Doglost (the UK's largest lost and found dog service), saw a 170% increase on their 2019 figures.

After a session of DogZoom, Liz reports that many parliamentarians have decided to take action. There are even reports of a government taskforce that will be focussed on curtailing and catching pet thieves. This is all thanks to you and your support of my campaign to end the scourge that is dog theft. So thank you. The fight is not over and there is much more work to be done, but after years of stagnation i am happy to say, we have finally made some progress.

Dog Theft on the Rise and how we Stop It (lizwebster.org.uk) Pet Theft ()