The British government announced, on Friday, that the kidnapping and theft of pets are considered a separate crime punishable by imprisonment. This is a reaction to the growing wave of animal thefts, especially dogs, in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, pet theft is treated as a loss of the owner’s property, and although it could theoretically result in a sentence of up to seven years in prison, in practice such penalties are very rare, because the length of the theft penalty depends in part on the value cash for the item taken.

As the government points out, classifying the theft of an animal as a separate crime would recognize the emotional suffering its loss causes to the owner as well as to the animals themselves. In addition, it will make the search prioritize the police. The maximum penalty for pet theft has yet to be set, but Sky News said it would be five years, and the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail said it would be seven.

During the coronavirus pandemic, when a large percentage of people are working from home and spending more time at home, the demand for pets, especially dogs, has increased. The result is an increase in prices and an increase in theft. The British government said prices for some of the most sought-after dog breeds have risen by as much as 89% during the pandemic. In 2020, the police received reports of nearly 2,000 dog thefts, nearly 70 percent. All pet thefts have been reported.

“Pet theft is a horrific crime that can put families under tremendous emotional stress while heartless criminals line their pockets. The new crime of pet kidnapping recognizes that animals are more than just possessions and will give police an additional tool to bring in these vigilantes. Their disgust with Home Secretary Priti Patel said “.

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From London Bartłomiej Niedziński (PAP)

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