Monday 28th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Jane Stevenson Portrait Jane Stevenson (Wolverhampton North East) (Con)
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It is a great pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) for securing an important debate.

Pet theft reform is something I have campaigned on for a while now. Indeed, we had a debate on pet theft last year, secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt). Many points were made, and I think that the Government are attempting to deal with them in this Parliament. They are trying to tackle this horrific crime, which impacts on our constituents so fundamentally. We need to use every tool available to us, and the two petitions highlight how absolutely crucial the rules on microchipping, databases and scanning are to getting this right. Fern, of Fern’s law, spent six years as a lost dog away from her family. Had a vet been obliged to check her microchip—veterinary treatment had been sought for her in that time—we know she would have made it home more quickly.

Many petitions that come with such popularity from the general public have common sense at their core. Having a single database to identify lost or stolen dog is basic common sense. If a dog is stolen, being able to add a marker to that single database to flag the pet as stolen is common sense. When a dog is sadly presented to be euthanised, we should establish that the correct and rightful owner is the person making that request. There is a further debate to be had about whether euthanising a healthy pet by a vet should be an available option, or whether surrender to a rescue would be a much better way to tackle unwanted pets, because no healthy dog should be euthanised. I know vets have an incredibly difficult time having to euthanise healthy dogs.

Pet theft is utterly barbaric. As we heard from so many people who have spoken, it is an urgent matter that we reform pet theft laws. Every day, I read another story of a devastated owner who has lost a beloved family member. In recent local elections, I heard that this crime has become such a concern to people I met, especially older constituents and female constituents. They are now too nervous to take their dogs out, certainly towards the end of the day. I was talking to them when trying to get dog-walking groups together; obviously, in the pandemic, that has been difficult for people. However, we must deal with this. It is so important to our constituents.

As we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), amendments have been tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. New clause 15 would make Fern’s law a reality, and I will support that new clause. We need action now. I spoke to the Lord Chancellor about pet theft a couple of weeks ago, and I have spoken to DEFRA Ministers and to the Home Office, and I am reassured that the Government are absolutely committed to doing this. I welcome the Government’s setting up the pet theft taskforce, which will look at all the issues around pet theft and report in the autumn.

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister in advance: I talk to her a lot about various animal welfare issues, and she is a real animal lover. I know that so many people support these reforms. How they happen is not important; whether via amendments to that Bill or a separate Act, it just needs to happen, and it needs to happen immediately, or as quickly as Government time will allow. Finally, I thank everybody who has campaigned for Fern’s law and Tuk’s law and every single person who signs petitions and who writes to their Member of Parliament. It is so important that we are kept informed and that we keep the pressure up to get something done—to get positive action. I thank the Government for listening and reacting to that.