Our #pets mean more to us than our phones or bicycles. Why doesn’t the law reflect this? #PetTheftPetition

Discovering your pet has been stolen must be any dog owner’s worst nightmare, but sadly, I don’t have to imagine how it feels because I know. Almost 12 years ago my two dogs, Widget and Gizmo, were stolen from my car.

Dog theft wasn’t as prevalent as it is today and social media was still in its infancy, so spreading the word was much harder, but thanks to a high profile PR campaign my boys were returned to me within a fortnight, both having been sold on to unsuspecting but thankfully honest people.

What shocked me at the time was the reaction of the police who were reluctant to come out to the scene saying ‘oh it’s only dogs’. The police did not attend and the crime was recorded as car theft because the car window had been smashed and there was no specific crime of dog theft. Imagine how that added to my distress.

Little has changed since 2006, despite the significant increase in dog thefts and the planned nature of many of the crimes today. In the last three years alone dog theft has increased by 24% and today more than 60 dogs are stolen every week in England and Wales. Stop and think about that number – 60 dogs a week!

Some thefts are opportunists taking animals from outside shops or from cars, but these days nowhere is safe, many dogs and litters are stolen to order from homes, kennels, gardens and even while out for a walk, mainly to make money. The dogs are either sold on for easy money, or are kept for breeding for a regular income, or used as bait dogs to train fighting dogs. One thing you can be sure of is that they are not stolen to be given a lovely life as the thief’s beloved pet!

And this is why the theft of a dog or any pet needs to become a specific crime in its own right. The minute the pet is stolen, its welfare is compromised and that is not only its physical but also its mental well-being.

Stealing a wallet or a mobile phone has no impact on the item itself, but stealing a dog can do untold damage to the sentient being.

This is illustrated by the tragic story of Bentley, Cilla and four other Cocker Spaniels, who were stolen from their owner’s home in November last year. Cilla and nine-month old Bentley were found weeks later wandering the streets. Sadly, it became apparent that both had suffered abuse and torture and had to undergo extensive treatment at their local vets. Cilla has hopefully made her way through these injuries with no lasting effect but unfortunately Bentley’s injuries resulted in his brain being damaged and he lost his fight for life in a matter of days. The four other dogs are still missing.

Dog theft is no longer an unplanned, opportunist crime – dogs, like cars, are stolen to order, often with a ready buyer to receive the goods, or to be shipped out of the country, yet the law does not see it as this. We need to change the law so dog theft is a specific crime, which the police will respond to and follow up, and one that carries a significant minimum sentence. Dogs and all pets are sentient beings who are significantly affected both physically and mentally when they are stolen, and surely animal welfare of this type should be high on any government’s agenda.

Please help us change this law by signing this petition. 100,000 signatures will hopefully ensure a debate in Parliament on the subject https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/212174

Blog by Debbie Matthews for Stolen And Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) and National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) who are the first National Rescue to support the petition. https://www.nawt.org.uk.