Pet Theft DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Gareth JohnsonMain Page: Gareth Johnson (Conservative) - Dartford)
(2 years, 2 months ago)Westminster Hall
That is true; the hon. Gentleman has hit the nail on the head in terms of the difference.
SAMPA asks the Minister to reclassify pet theft as a crime in its own right, as is the case with vehicles and bicycles, and to add aggravated sentence provision for pet theft, to give the courts extended discretion.
On sentencing consistency, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is being revised to increase sentencing for animal cruelty, and it is in the public interest to do the same for pet theft. SAMPA wants those changes because it believes that being proactive, with tougher sentencing, will act as a deterrent and help to reduce pet theft.
As we have heard, this is clearly an all-party issue. More than 100,000 petitioners agree that we need pet theft reform to help to protect pets. Campaigners hope that the Minister will do the right thing and make pet theft reform a reality.
I have listened carefully to my hon. Friend’s contribution. It strikes me that the element that we are not really accounting for is that dogs themselves may be worth less than five hundred quid, but their breeding potential may be worth several thousand pounds over a period of time. I wonder whether the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has an application in this area that has not yet been properly used.
Their offspring, however, might be worth more; that is my point. My hon. Friend might have a dog that is borderline £500 in value, but if, unfortunately, it had more than one litter a year—some unscrupulous breeders of dogs do that—for a period of years, its value to a breeder would be significant.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak. It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Sharma, and to serve under you this afternoon.
I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) for an important speech. I agreed with his speech in full, and I hope that Dr Daniel Allen—the creator of this public petition—and all who love their animals feel the same way.
Millions of people and families from across the country—in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland—own pets of many kinds. In June 2017, I was elected Member of Parliament for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. It was an important moment for me and for my family, but I can assure everyone present that it was not the only important matter for us last year. We got a new dog—I was replaced by a dog called Mia, who joined our family. If my wife Anne was asked, I think she would say that Mia coming to us was more important than me coming to this House.
After so many weeks down here in Parliament, it could be said that in the eyes of the Gaffney family, Mia has indeed replaced me in our home back in Scotland. She certainly spends more time in my bed than I do. Like many Members from across the House, I could share many stories of my dog’s cheeky but loving behaviour, and about her determination to take my side of the bed and establish herself as the top dog in our house.
It is easy for me to have fun and laugh with my dog—she has certainly given me a lot of pleasure—but other people experience the heartache of losing their animals or having them stolen. I pay tribute to the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance for the important work that it does to champion the rights of animal lovers, and indeed the rights of the animals themselves. I echo the words of Beverley Cuddy, the patron of SAMPA, who said:
“Pets are priceless, irreplaceable and their loss wrecks lives”.
Beverley is right and she gives voice to the feelings of so many people. I add my support to ensure that all our voices are heard here today in Parliament.
The fact that only one in five stolen dogs tends to be recovered is a disgrace, and it means that many families and other dog owners will never receive the closure that they need and demand after the loss of a pet. We must do more, and we must do better. There is no doubt that crime is on the rise in this country, whatever we may hear from the Home Office, and not just conventional sorts of crime. Pet theft is also on the rise, and we can see why.