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Taskforce to tackle rise in pet thefts

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Written by: Emma Lunn
10/05/2021
The government has launched a Pet Theft Taskforce to investigate the recent reported rise in pet theft since the start of lockdown.

Sales platforms have reported a considerable 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 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.

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.

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.”

Not all pet insurance policies include cover for stolen pets. GoCompare examined 409 pet insurance policies on the market and found that while nearly three quarters (74%) of them offer cover for the theft or loss of a dog as standard, in many cases even a payout would not cover the average cost of a puppy in 2021.

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