National Pet Month- Labrador is the most popular dog breed in the UK Photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash

A Pet Theft Taskforce has been launched today (8 May 2021) to investigate the recent reported rise in pet theft since the start of lockdown, Environment Secretary George Eustice has announced.

Sales platforms have reported a rise in puppy and kitten prices over the course of the past year following more people deciding to buy or adopt a pet. Recent reports have suggested that this may be leading to a rise in pet thefts.

According to DogsTrust, the price for five of the UK’s most sought after breeds grew 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.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

“Pets are much loved members of the family, and these reports will be distressing for all pet owners.

“Pet owners shouldn’t live in fear so we’ve set up this Taskforce to thoroughly investigate the issue and ensure that we have the measures in place to stop these criminals in their tracks.”

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.

Steps to help to protect your pets from theft

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.

The Pet Theft Taskforce will:

  • Work with police, law enforcement, and experts to understand and tackle pet theft
  • Consider the issue from end to end, including causes, prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution.
  • Make clear and timely recommendations on ways to reduce pet theft

Taskforce partner, Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, said:

“The taskforce will enable us to gather intelligence across the country and tackle groups who work across geographical boundaries. We hope that this is a step forward in providing reassurance that we are committed to understanding any risks fully, and challenging related criminal behaviour.”

The police have advised that dog owners should avoid leaving their pet unattended while out in public, vary their routines when walking their dogs and should take basic security steps at home such as checking locks on doors and garden gates.

The Blue Cross has also published detailed guidance for pet owners on how they can protect their animals from theft.

The taskforce will aim to report on the findings and publish its recommendations in the autumn this year. The full Terms of Reference for the Taskforce can be accessed here.