The UK government announced, on Friday, that it would criminalize pet theft, in an attempt to curb a phenomenon that has escalated during the pandemic and has sparked anger among Britons, who have been very attached to their pets.
Currently, a stolen animal is considered missing in British law. The Ministry of Environment, in a statement, explained that the bill to be presented to Parliament “will take into account the welfare of animals and the fact that companion animals are considered more than property.”
The decision coincides with the publication of a report by a working group set up by the Executive in May 2021 to deal with the epidemic of dog theft in a country of about 10 million of them.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, animal advocacy groups have sounded the alarm, and MPs from across the political spectrum have called on the government to tighten penalties.
To escape the boredom, loneliness and pain caused by the long and harsh confinement in the country, many Britons wanted to buy a pet.
Prices have risen dramatically, attracting the greed of some.
According to the report, seven out of every ten animal thefts recorded by the police were from dogs. Prices for some particularly desirable breeds have increased by up to 89% compared to pre-pandemic prices.
“Pet theft is a horrific crime that can cause great psychological distress to families, and in the meantime, cruel criminals are filling their pockets,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.
He added that the new crime would “give the police an additional tool” to bring these people to justice.
The prison sentence to which they are subjected has not been specified.
Chris Sherwood, director of the RSPCA, an animal defense association, said he was confident that “this will encourage courts to impose much harsher penalties on pet thieves.”
pau-acc / jvb