An e-petition to reclassify the theft of a pet as a crime in its own right has now reached over 75,000 signatures.
Dr Daniel Allen, a human geography tutor at Keele University created the petition in February and he is confident that it will reach the 100,000 signatures required to trigger a debate in Parliament within the six months ending on 8 August.
On researching the problem, Dr Allen said he was appalled by the increase of dog theft, a lack of accurate police statistics and highlighted the need for the crime to be reclassified.
Dr Allen said: “People do not steal dogs to love them, they use them, they abuse them, and they treat them like disposable objects. Dog theft is a gateway to wider animal cruelty, including puppy farming and dog fighting, and should be connected to wider concerns about dog welfare. Pet theft is a cruel and devastating crime, made all the more painful when the law refers to family pets as ‘personal items’. Dogs are family-the law needs to reflect that.”
With the law as it stands, there is no deterrent to reduce pet theft which has increased by nearly 24 percent over the past three years but prior to the Theft Act 1968, dog stealing was a crime with a custodial punishment.
Arnot Wilson of the Dog Union and member of the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance who are supporting, said: “It is unbelievable that in the Theft Act 1968, a dog, a sentient being, is considered as personal property but cars and bicycles are separately classified. Reclassification will bring with it much needed accurate police records.”
Prof John Cooper, QC who has been involved in animal welfare issues for over 25 years and is now providing legal backing to SAMPA, believes legislation to protect dogs will not be a difficult exercise nor need to take up much parliamentary time. He said that “no legislation in any area stops the crime but if we have harsher penalties in place, it will send a strong message to deter people.”
The petition has the backing of the National Animal Welfare Trust, celebrities Ricky Gervais, Miranda Hart, Deborah Meaden and Peter Egan.
The Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance are asking the support of the pet trade to help promote the petition.