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The Pet Abduction Bill is a private members’ bill introduced into parliament by Anna Firth (Con) with the support of the government.  The government supports the Bill and published Explanatory Notes and a Delegated Powers Memorandum alongside it.

There is currently no legislation aimed at addressing pet theft specifically. Animals fall under the definition of property in legislation, and as such pet theft is dealt with under the Theft Act 1968.  Campaigners have called for stronger legislation that reflects the emotional value of pets to their owners and the distress associated with their theft.

In response to public concerns that pet theft had risen during the Covid-19 pandemic the government set up a Pet Theft Taskforce in May 2021 to examine the issue in England and Wales.  There were concerns that an increase in demands for pets, resulting in increased prices, was driving a reported increase in thefts.

The Taskforce’s conclusion in September 2021 was that a new offence, pet abduction, should be created that “could switch the focus from the loss to the owner to the welfare of the animal” when sentencing.

The government included provisions in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill to create an offence of taking a pet without lawful authority. However, the Bill was withdrawn by the government in June 2023, before it completed all stages. The government committed at the time to bringing forward legislation on pet theft before the end of the current Parliament.

The Pet Abduction Bill would create two new criminal offences of dog abduction and cat abduction in England and Northern Ireland. These would carry a maximum prison sentence of five years. It would also provide powers to extend the legislation to cover other pets if necessary.

Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons took place on 19 January 2024. Committee Stage of the Bill took place 31 January 2024.  One amendment was approved without a vote, tabled by Dr Thérèse Coffey (Con). The change means that the legislation would automatically come into force three months after the Bill received Royal Assent. The original version of the Bill would have required secondary legislation to set the date for the legislation to come into force. 

Remaining stages of the Bill in the House of Commons took place on 19th April 2024 where Bill was passed unamended. Second reading of the Bill in the House of Lords is due on 10 May 2024.

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