Tory MP calls for stronger sentencing guidelines for pet thefts

Dog theft has increased in the UK
Dog theft has increased in the UK

A MP wants to bring in tougher punishments for pet theft.

Conservative Ross Thomson wants existing laws to be strengthened to recognise the status of pets.

Under current law, stolen pets are treated as possessions but Mr Thomson said a specific offence should be created to reflect the animals being "part of the family".

Dog theft has increased in the UK for two years running, with the equivalent of five dogs reported stolen every day in 2017, recent figures showed.

The statistics - compiled by Direct Line Pet Insurance from Freedom of Information requests to police - showed 1,909 dogs were reported stolen in 2017, up 6.8% on the 1,788 in 2016 and a 14% increase on the previous year.

"Designer" breeds such as the French bulldog are increasingly being targeted, with 61 stolen last year, up 27% on the previous year.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers were the most commonly stolen dog, with 210 taken last year.

Campaigners and animal charities said dogs are stolen for resale, breeding or fighting.

Aberdeen South MP Mr Thomson will call for tougher laws via a ten-minute rule bill to be proposed in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

He said: "Pets are very much part of the family, they are not possessions like a car or HD TV.

"For anyone unfortunate enough to have experienced pet theft, it can be truly heart-breaking, distressing and devastating.

"The theft of a pet should be recognised as a serious, criminal and punishable offence that recognises the status the animal has within their family.

"I want to see tougher sentencing guidelines for courts to deal with those that are caught. I hope that the UK Government will support this bill."

TV vet Marc Abraham has backed the move, saying: "This has been a growing problem in the UK for some time now.

"We are seeing an increasing number of incidents, with highly valued pedigree dogs and 'designer' crossbreeds being deliberately targeted to breed from, sell on and some even being forced into illegal dog fighting."