'Dogs are part of the family': Animal charity welcomes crackdown on pet theft

A pair of happy hounds on the 2019 All Dogs Matter Valentine's Day walk on Hampstead Heath

Around 2,000 dog theft crimes were reported to police in 2020 - Credit: All Dogs Matter

An East Finchley dog charity has welcomed the government's announcement that pet abduction is set to become a criminal offence.

On Friday (September 3), the government's Pet Theft Taskforce published a report laying out a series of recommendations as part of a crackdown on animal thieves.

The report found that seven in 10 of animal thefts recorded by police involve dogs, and evidence suggests that around 2,000 dog theft crimes were reported to police in 2020, causing "considerable distress for owners and their pets alike".

Ira Moss, from rescue and rehoming charity All Dogs Matter, based in Aylmer Parade, called the law change a "really good thing".

She said: "Dogs are sentient beings, and it's important that the law reflects that they are different from stolen cars. Dogs become part of the family, and should be treated differently.

"The rise of dogs being bought over lockdown has inflated their prices, meaning they have become a criminal target."

Despite welcoming the move, Ira believes the change in legislation will only partially solve the problem of pets being sold into unsafe environments.

All Dogs Matter fundraiser

All Dogs Matter has warning people previously warned people not to buy dogs at extortionate prices online - Credit: Christiana Hinds

"Dogs can still be bought and sold online as commodities," she said. "It's not selling a bag on eBay, people don't know where their dogs will end up."

Sadly, many dogs that come to the charity have already been sold online three or four times before.

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Ira added: "We have been trying to push for people to hand unwanted pets into charities, rather than re-selling them online."

The government's report also suggested that reliable data on pet theft is limited, and improved recording and data collection about these crimes could build a stronger evidence base about the problem.

It further recommended new requirements to register additional details and that a single point of access to microchipping databases will support tracking lost and stolen dogs.

All Dogs Matter's founder Ira Moss

All Dogs Matter general manager Ira Moss backed today's Pet Theft Taskforce recommendations - Credit: All Dogs Matter

The environment secretary, George Eustice, said: "Pet owners shouldn’t have to live in fear, and I am pleased this report acknowledges the unique distress caused by this crime."

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: "The new Pet Abduction Offence will acknowledge the seriousness of this crime and we hope this will encourage courts to hand out much tougher sentences to pet thieves."

It remains unclear what the maximum sentence for pet abductors under new legislation might be. Current laws under the Theft Act 1968 carry a maximum term of seven years.