Sheffield vets issues warning over pet thefts in city as new offence is created

A vets in Sheffield has welcomed a new pet theft law following a surge in dognappings.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 1:47 pm

Pet abduction is to become a new criminal offence because of a rise in crimes during the pandemic.

The new law will recognise the welfare of animals and that pets are valued as more than property.

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Laura Paterson, from White Cross Vets, in Sheffield

It has been welcomed by White Cross Vets in Handsworth.

Earlier this summer parliament debated proposals to make it easier to find stolen pets after more than half a million people signed a petition calling for a specific dog theft offence, which recognises the emotional trauma of losing a pet.

The abduction offence is a key recommendation in a report published this month by the government's Pet Theft Taskforce.

The report revealed that approximately 2,000 dog thefts were reported to police in 2020 and that 70 per cent of pet thefts involve dogs.

Other recommendations include improving data collection and streamlining England’s 16 pet microchip databases to make it easier to trace stolen pets.

Laura Paterson, group clinical director at White Cross Vets, said: “Unfortunately as the demand for puppies and kittens has sky rocketed, so has their price, with the most sought-after breeds being sold for vast sums of money. Although there have always been pet thefts, the numbers are increasing, and we are continually receiving enquiries from distressed pet owners trying to find lost and stolen pets.

“Pets are beloved and integral family members and it’s very painful for owners when they are stolen or go missing. At the moment, a pet theft is treated as a loss of an owner’s property, so its comparable to having a bike pinched, which isn’t right.

“The pet abduction offence will recognise that pets are far more important than other items of property and will acknowledge the emotional distress that occurs when a pet is stolen. Once introduced, the new law should make it more difficult for thieves to abduct and sell pets as well as making it easier for police to apprehend the criminals and tougher sentences will reflect the impact on both the pet and owner.”

Laura added: “Microchips remain one of the best chances of being reunited with a lost or stolen pet. Laws introduced in April 2016 require all dogs to be microchipped and registered by the age of eight weeks. Hardly a week goes by without somebody bringing us a lost pet cat or dog and the first thing we always do is scan for a microchip. This gives us a unique reference number, which we can use to obtain the owner’s details from a database.

“However, we often find this contains out of date details, because a pet owner has moved home or changed their phone number, without updating the database. It only takes a few minutes to do, and it can make all the difference if the pet goes missing.”

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The firm also recommends using GPS tracking collars and warns that dogs should only be left outside alone if gardens are secure.