On Monday a debate will be held in Parliament to discuss the issue of Dog theft.
The Westminster Hall debate was granted after a petition by the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) gained more than 100,000 signatures. The petition called for pet theft to be reclassified as a crime in its own right.
Dog theft is an issue I have been keen to highlight since I became an MP and unfortunately it is a growing problem.
In England and Wales, figures show that nearly 2,000 dogs were reported stolen in 2017 and most were never returned to their owners.
The Metropolitan Police area reported the highest number of reported thefts, with Kent having the third highest number of dogs stolen in 2017. Although these figures for Kent are high it does, in part, reflect the fact that Kent Police are one of the most pro-active forces in the country on this issue.
Last March, I joined forces with the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) to host the first Dog Theft Awareness Day to raise awareness about this issue.
Dog theft is a really nasty crime which causes distress to both the owners and the dogs themselves but unfortunately the people who commit this crime are rarely caught. It also currently seen as low risk because the courts are restricted in the penalties they give out.
In fact, the courts’ sentencing guidelines mean the theft of a dog is treated in the same way as the theft of an object such as a mobile phone. This is because courts have to sentence according to the value of the dog, rather than the heartbreak it causes to the owner. It means that unless the dog is of high financial value, they cannot impose a term of imprisonment. Most dogs are treated like members of the family and currently the sentences given miss that point.
I am pleased there has been lots of support for this petition as it will give MPs an opportunity to raise this issue with the Minister. I hope lots of my colleagues will take part in this important public debate in Parliament in a bid to get tougher sentencing for those responsible for this despicable crime.