The Pet Abduction Bill

Written 5th February 2024 by Connor Brylczak

The Pet Abduction Bill passed through the first stage of proceedings on 19/01/2024 following government backing. The previous Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill looked to create an offence of taking a pet without lawful authority, but the bill was subsequently withdrawn in June 2023. This led to further demands for a change to the legislation.

As things stand, pets are considered property and are covered by the Theft Act 1968 meaning there is no specific legislation tackling pet abduction. With the current law, set out in the Theft Act 1968, a pet is considered low value, making it difficult for a court to give custodial sentences for these type of offences.

The Pet Abduction Bill

The Pet Abduction Bill looks to create two offences of pet abduction, one directed to cat abduction and one aimed at dog abduction. Anyone guilty of an offence under this legislation could face a fine or a maximum of 5 years in prison or both. There has been a significant rise in pet theft which is why it is important for better legislation allowing for harsher sentences is passed.

The bill reflects the emotional value pets have to their owners partnered with the distress caused to families when their pets are stolen. This will separate animals from inanimate objects, such as mobile phones and put pet abduction higher on the list of priority for police by categorising these offences as abductions rather than thefts.

What needs to be proven for pet abduction?

The following will apply to both cats and dogs when the Pet Abduction Bill becomes legislation:

A person commits an offence of cat/dog abduction if they take the pet from their lawful owner or detain the pet as to keep it from its lawful owner or anyone who is to have lawful control of it.

However, pet abduction is not committed if the person who took the pet once lived with the lawful owner and the pet, in the same household prior to taking it.

Defences to pet abduction?

It could be a defence to Pet Abduction if the person can show they had a reasonable excuse for taking the pet, believed it was a stray, took all reasonable steps to try and reunite the stray pet with its lawful owner and did not detain them for more than 96 hours.

The Bill does not intend to only apply to cats and dogs. The legislation can be amended or replicated by a National Authority to apply to other species that are commonly known as pets.

Connor Brylczak

Connor Brylczak

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