Pets should not be treated as 'merely property' in theft cases, says Yorkshire councillor who is calling for law change

The Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) - an 'animal lover and dog owner' - has backed a councillor’s call to stop treating pets as “merely property” in theft case

Pet theft laws could be set to change if Yorkshire leaders get their way

PCC Jonathan Evison said he would support toughening laws on the thefts of pets which are for many a “part of the family”.

His comments come as Liberal Democrat Councillor Viv Padden is set to call for East Riding Council to lobby the government for law changes.

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Coun Padden said he tabled a motion at the next full council meeting, on Wednesday, July 28, following reports of dogs and other pets being stolen during the coronavirus lockdown.

He added the anguish he saw in a woman in his ward who briefly lost her dog and feared it stolen showed him the situation was “serious”.

Coun Padden’s call follows a warning to pet owners from Humberside Police after three reports of dog thefts were made up to March this year.

The number of thefts in the East Riding was eight in 2020, up from seven in 2019, but in Hull figures almost doubled from eight to 14 year-on-year.

The force stated that while increases had not followed sharper rises seen elsewhere, they would urge residents to report any suspected thefts.

It also comes as the Home Office launched a task force to investigate rises in pet thefts seen nationally and could make recommendations on possible law changes.

Figures from the DogsTrust charity showed the price of some breeds rose by as much as 89 per cent during the first coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Evison said pets could not simply be replaced like any other “piece of property”.

The PCC said: “As an animal lover and dog owner my pets are part of my family and if stolen it would cause great distress to my family.

“I would fully support any change in the law which makes pet theft a more serious crime.”

Coun Padden said the rising cost of buying pets had signalled to thieves that there was “money to be made” by stealing and selling them on at below market prices.

The Tranby ward councillor said: “My wife and I dog sat for some friends early on in the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve had dogs before and it made us decide to get another.

“But looking at the prices for puppies, they’d risen from about £600 before and were about £2,000.

“So that’s encouraged thieves to drive around in vans looking to pick dogs up that they then sell on.

“But the trouble is the buyers don’t ask questions of them and the people who’ve lost them are devastated.

“About 10 days ago a neighbour of mine was asking around if we’d seen a dog that went missing.

“We managed to find it and its owner came running down the drive towards me and gave me the biggest hug I’d ever had, I thought this is serious now.

“Dogs and other pets are so well loved, they’re a companion for people, so when they’re stolen it’s more than just a theft.

“But when I looked into it I couldn’t believe thefts of pets are classed as the same as any other stolen property, it’s wrong.

“I’m sure any other councillors in the chamber who have pets themselves will be able to imagine how it might feel if they were stolen.”

Anyone convicted of stealing a pet is currently prosecuted under the Theft Act 1968 and is liable to a maximum of seven years in prison.

They can also be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 if they are found to have caused an animal to suffer while handling it.