A Government taskforce has been set up to investigate a reported rise in pet thefts since the beginning of lockdown.
The move has been welcomed by James Duddridge MP, Member of Parliament for Rochford and Southend East.
According to DogsTrust, the price for five of the UK’s most sought after breeds grew significantly during the first lockdown with the price of some breeds rising by as much as 89%.
Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increased by 166% in the months between March and August following the start of lockdown last year. Recent police investigations into dog theft have also resulted in numerous raids and arrests on suspicion of theft and animal cruelty.
The new taskforce has been set up to gather evidence to understand the factors that may be contributing to any perceived rise in thefts and to recommend any necessary measures to tackle the problem. The Taskforce will learn lessons from successes in tackling other types of theft, such as mobile phone or metal theft, and how to clamp down most effectively on this illegal market and those engaged in it.
Stealing a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968, with offenders facing a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. If someone causes an animal to suffer in the cause of stealing it from its owner, then they are also liable to prosecution for offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The taskforce will be made up of government officials from Defra, Home Office and Ministry of Justice as well as operational partners such as the police. It will also seek input from animal welfare groups and experts in relevant fields.
Commenting, James, who owns three cats himself, said:
"We are an animal-loving nation, and I know many residents are worried about the recent reported rise in pet thefts.
"Our dogs or cats are just like members of the family, and the thought of them being taken is extremely worrying for any owner.
"I'm pleased the Government has set up the Pet Theft Taskforce who I understand will be working with the police and experts to get to the bottom of this distressing issue and find ways to prevent and reduce pet theft in the future."