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Spike in “Pet Thefts” leads Government to review the severity of the crime

by | Feb 14, 2021 | Burglary, Criminal Law, General News | 0 comments

Government to upgrade seriousness of pet theft cases?

On LBC radio this week the Home Secretary Priti Patel expressed a recent rise in pet thefts as ‘absolutely shocking’ and said that she was in talks about upgrading pet theft to a more serious offence, meaning that more substantial penalties could apply.

Double-digit Increase in pet theft offences.

The results of a BBC freedom of information request showed that five policing areas saw a double-digit increase in the number of dog thefts reported between January and July 2020, compared with the previous year.

Overall, about half of the 26 forces that responded to the BBC’s data request saw an increase over the last seven months, while the rest saw fewer reports.

Five forces had more reports between January and July 2020 than the whole of the previous year.

The Pet Theft Hotspots

There was a significant increase across Northumbria, Devon and Cornwall and Leicestershire – compared to the same period in the previous year.

Northumbria Police saw the largest increase of reported dog thefts, rising from 27 to 67 reports.

In Leicestershire, there were 41 reports compared to 22, which was also more than the total for the whole of 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Do we need a new law?

The stealing of a pet amounts to Theft under s 1 of the Theft Act 1968, and in some cases could amount to a burglary. The offence of theft carries a maximum sentence of 7 years imprisonment, and burglary carries 10 years (for a non-dwelling) and 14 years for a dwelling house burglary.

It is inconceivable that any pet theft could result in a sentence anywhere near the maximums allowed for, making the creation of a new offence nonsensical, to say the least.

The Home Secretary is also mistaken in thinking that sentencing needs addressing at all. A court can always depart from a sentencing guideline to take account of novel issues, and in any event, the existing theft guideline already applies to pet theft.

The guideline assesses more significant harm having been caused where:

‘Items stolen were of substantial value to the loser – regardless of monetary worth.’


‘Emotional distress’ [resulted].

We might expect to see both in animal theft cases.

A general aggravating factor is ‘stealing goods to order’ as is ‘prevalence’.

Taking all these factors together demonstrates that existing maximum sentencing powers, and guidelines, are sufficient to deal with animal theft cases.

How can we help?

If you have any questions about pet theft or any other theft-related offences do not hesitate to contact our specialist lawyers. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please call us now on 0161 477 1121 or email us if you have any questions in relation to this article.


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