Dognappers and owners who abandon pets to face tougher sentences

Boris backs tougher measures against dognappers and owners who abandon their pets after lockdown

  • Government is looking at making punishments more severe for dog abandoning
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a dog and already launched a pet taskforce
  • Fear is people will abandon dogs bought in lockdown when they return to office 

Boris Johnson’s government is looking at tough punishments for thieves or people who abandon the pets.

The Prime Minister, 56, was revealed today to have taken up the cause amid fears many canines could suffer when people go back to work after the pandemic following months at home.

His government’s further intervention came on the day his former adviser Dominic Cummings is to appear before MPs, where he is expected to metaphorically maul Mr Johnson. 

The criminal phenomenon of Dognapping soared during lockdown as people stuck at home were desperate for companionship.

Now plans to prosecute people under animal welfare laws instead of the Theft Act 1968 are being considered.

Ministers are said to think this change will mean ‘the emotional attachment between owners and their pets’ is considered in more cases.

Boris Johnson runs in London Park with Dilyn the Dog yesterday morning as part of his routine

One crime type that has risen in prominence during the pandemic is  pet theft

Boris Johnson General Election Campaign Day 28. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his pet dog Dilyn on a visit to Conservative Party HQ last year

Mr Johnson, who has his own Jack Russell cross Dilyn, is known to be extremely attached to him and even used a taxpayer-funded photographer to take pictures of him playing in the snow.

He has said dog theft can ’cause huge pain and grief to the victims’, the Times reported. 

The remit of the government’s pet theft task force – which was only set up a fortnight ago – has been widened to crack down on owners abandoning animals.

Its existence was revealed on the government’s website on May 8 and involves Environment Secretary George Eustice, Home Secretary Priti Patel and The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland.

Ms Patel said as it launched the 20,000 extra police officers being recruited to the force would be looking at dog thefts.

She said at the time: ‘Having callous thieves steal a much-loved pet is heart-breaking for families and it is deplorable that criminals seek to profit from this cruel crime.

Adorable pictures of Dilyn in the Snow at 10 Downing Street were put out by the government

Images of the dog attracted criticism as they were taken by a taxpayer-paid photographer

Paw Patrol: What does Government’s Pet Taskforce aim to do? 

This taskforce is commissioned to:

Gather, research and commission work to build a clear evidence base of the scale of any issue.

Consider the issue from end to end, including causes, prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution.

Make clear and timely recommendations on ways to improve the situation around pet theft.

While much of the current narrative is around dog theft the taskforce will establish the position around pets as a whole and provide a focus where required.

‘We are already taking action to combat such lawlessness by bolstering the police with 20,000 extra officers but this new taskforce will ensure we know how best to combat the driving forces behind this distressing crime and clamp down on the perpetrators.’

The Government wants to position the UK as a global leader in animal welfare standards.

It has taken steps to end live animal exports and crack down on the illegal smuggling of dogs and puppies, with further proposals to improve standards and eradicate cruel practices to be set out later this month.

A government source said: ‘We need to start considering that it’s not just a theft issue, there’s also abandonment.’

Dog thefts increased by almost a fifth amid the coronavirus lockdown as soaring demand saw prices for some breeds almost double.

Staffordshire bull terriers, chihuahuas and cocker spaniels are among the most sought-after breeds being targeted by dognappers who are looking to cash in during the pandemic.

Dogs Trust recently revealed that the asking price for some of the UK’s most sought after breeds sky-rocketed after lockdown was announced.

UK’s most stolen dog breeds

Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance

The charity reviewed advertisements from the last three years on some of the UK’s largest classified advertising websites. 

It found significant price hikes including for Dachshunds that cost an average of £973 before March with prices rising 89 per cent to £1,838 just months later.

Other breeds to have experienced a price increase include English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs and Chow Chows.

Katy Bourne, the Police and Crime Commissioner in Sussex, has called for the theft of pets to be categorised separately to improve police data. 

She found via an online survey that more than a fifth of 124,000 respondents had either had a pet stolen, or knew someone who had, during the past year.

Almost 65 per cent of respondents said they feared taking their pet for a walk during the day. 

Staffordshire bull terriers were the most popular breed targeted by thieves, with 97 stolen in 2020, accounting for 21 per cent of all dogs with named breeds stolen in 2020. 

Debbie Matthews, CEO of SAMPA (Stolen And Missing Pets Alliace), added: ‘Advising all dog owners to be dog theft aware and to be vigilant. 

‘Doglost the UK’s largest lost and found pet service run by volunteers, has already registered 168 stolen dogs with Crime Reference Numbers (CRN) on their website in the first three months of this year. 

‘Gardens and homes are still the top place for dogs to be stolen from. Please check your home security, how easy would it be to steal your dog from the garden? 

‘Never leave your dog unattended in your garden, outside shops or in your car. Vary the times of your walk and the route. Stay alert.’

Pensioner, 66, is left ‘broken’ by violent dognapping

Pensioner Mike Jasper was attacked and had his sprocker spaniel Ted (above) stolen while walking on a common

Pensioner Mike Jasper was attacked and had his sprocker spaniel Ted stolen while walking on a common.

The 66-year-old was assaulted from behind by two men who made off with his beloved three-year-old pet in December.

The retired police officer was knocked to the ground and one of the attackers stood on his wrist until he let go of the lead while walking on Cannon Hill Common in South London. 

Mr Jasper’s dog had helped him cope with depression and his daughter Lucinda told how the theft had severely damaged her father’s mental health.

‘Since Ted’s been taken, Dad has just been completely broken,’ she said.

‘He can’t leave the house. He’s suffering really badly from depression and as a family, it’s really upsetting to see because he had made such good progress with his mental health.’

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