Doncaster vets welcomes new pet theft laws which will keep beloved animals safer

Pet theft is becoming a new criminal offence following a surge in dog-nappings during the pandemic.

By Laura Andrew
Monday, 4th October 2021, 6:58 am

This news has been welcomed by White Cross Vets in Balby.

Laura Paterson, group clinical director at White Cross Vets, said: “Unfortunately as the demand for puppies and kittens has skyrocketed, so has their rice, with the most sought after breeds being sold for vast amounts of money.

“Although there have always been pet thefts, the numbers are increasing, and we are continually receiving enquiries from distressed pet owners trying to find lost and stolen pets.

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Laura Paterson from White Cross Vets.

“Pets are beloved and integral family members and it’s very painful for owners when they are stolen or go missing.”

Earlier this summer parliament debated proposals to make it easier to find stolen pets after more than half a million people signed a petition calling for a specific dog theft offence, which recognises the emotional trauma of losing a pet.

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A report by the government’s Pet Theft Task Force revealed that approximately 2,000 dog thefts were reported to police in 2020 and that 70 per cent of pet thefts involved dogs.

The task force recommended introducing a specific dog theft office, improvements to data collection and streamlining England’s 16 pet microchip databases to make it easier to trace stolen pets.

Laura said: “At the moment, a pet theft is treated as a loss of an owner’s property, so it’s comparable to having a bike pinched, which isn’t right.

“The pet abduction offence will recognise that pets are far more important that other items of property and will acknowledge the emotional distress that occurs when a pet is stolen.

“Once introduced, the new law should make it more difficult for thieves to abduct and sell pets as well as making it easier for police to apprehend the criminals and tougher sentences will reflect the impact on both the pet and owner.

“Microchips remain one of the best chances of being reunited with a lost or stolen pet.

“Laws introduced in April 2016 require all dogs to be microchipped and registered by the age of eight weeks.

“Hardly a week goes by without somebody bringing us a lost pet cat or dog and the first thing we always do is scan for a microchip.

“This gives us a unique reference number, which we can use to obtain the owner’s details from a database.

“However, we often find this contains out of date details, because a pet owner has moved home or changed their phone number, without updating the database.

“It only takes a few minutes to do, and it can make all the difference if the pet goes missing.”

The vet also recommends putting a phone number on the dog's collar but not a name as it may make the dog easier to lure in by thieves.

They also warn about the risks of sharing too much information about the pet on social media as it can lead criminals directly to them.

GPS tracking collars can be effective as well as training the dog in recall skills.

They also advise not to leave dogs outside in gardens unless they are secure.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.