Dog theft to be made a criminal offence in England

September 3, 2021

A new criminal offence of pet abduction is to be introduced in England, to tackle the rising number of heart-breaking pet-napping incidents. 

The introduction of the new offence is one of the recommendations of the Pet Theft Task Force, which found that: 

  • Approximately 7 out of 10 reports of pet theft involved dogs 
  • Around 2,000 incidents of dog theft were reported to the police in 2020
  • The theft of a pet has a serious impact – in terms of the emotional trauma experienced by pet owners and the impact of theft on a pet’s welfare. 

Until now, the theft of a pet has been treated in the same way as theft of property, for example, stealing a car. However, this didn’t take into account the emotional impact of losing a much-loved family pet or recognise pets as sentient beings.  

Dogs as sentient beings

In May 2021, a new law was passed which recognised animals as sentient beings. The introduction of the new offence for pet abduction would acknowledge the welfare of sentient animals.

Other recommendations by the task force include: 

  • Improving the recording and collection of data on pet theft to better understand the scale of the problem
  • A requirement for additional information from owners when registering their dog’s microchip
  • Creating a single point of access for the many microchipping databases that are in operation
  • Continued collaboration between police forces and partner agencies, including the RSPCA and local authorities to tackle pet theft
  • A requirement for proof of identity to be provided by pet sellers when advertising a pet for sale

Read more about microchipping in our article about dogs and the law

Action plan for animal welfare

The recommendations from the Dog Theft Task Force are part of the government’s commitment to strengthen the UK’s position as a global leader in animal welfare. This is set out under its Action Plan for Animal Welfare, and includes:

  • Increasing the minimum age that dogs can be imported into Great Britain from 15 weeks to 6 months and restricting the movement of heavily pregnant dogs, to clamp down on puppy smuggling
  • Prohibiting the import of dogs that have been subject to practices such as ear cropping and tail docking, which are already banned in the UK
  • Increasing awareness about how to source pets responsibly and avoid falling foul to rogue traders.

Read more on how to buy a puppy responsibly and safely

How to protect your pet from theft

There are things you can do to protect your pet from theft. This includes: 

  • Making sure your garden is secure and that you can keep a close eye on your dog when they are outside
  • Not leaving your dog alone in a car or tied up outside a shop
  • Keeping your dog within sight when out walking. 

Read more about what you can do to prevent dog theft and keep your pet safe.

Keeping track of your dog

GPS dog trackers can be a helpful way to keep track of your dog’s whereabouts when you’re out and about. Here are the top three best sellers: