The theft of a pet can have a devastating impact on its owners, who love and treat their dogs as members of their family. Emotional impacts that owners of stolen dogs have reported include depression, poor mental health, breakdown in social lives, and even marriage breakdown. It is only right that sentencing for criminals that target dog owners face punishment that reflects the harm of their actions, rather than a minimal community order or small fine.
England and Wales
- Currently, the Sentencing Council classifies theft under the Theft Act 1968 into four different offence categories, ranging from category four (up to £500 worth of stolen goods and little or no significant additional harm to the victim or others) up to category one (goods stolen with a value of £100,000 or above or high value with significant additional harm to the victim or others)
- Under this guidance, the maximum sentence for theft is seven years’ imprisonment. However, due to the relatively low financial value of dogs, sentences for pet theft are typically much lower
- In the eyes of the law, dogs are considered inanimate objects – in the same way as property, such as TVs and mobile phones – and sentencing therefore does not fully reflect the emotional value of a pet
- Courts are required to follow relevant guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council, which was most recently updated in February 2016
- In Northern Ireland, a person guilty of theft can receive up to ten years’ imprisonment. However, the typical sentencing range for theft in general varies between a Community Order to six months’ custody
- While the responsibility for the legislative framework for sentencing lies with the devolved government, independent judges decide individual sentences and must consider aggravating factors, including value of the loss and the impact on victims and others
- Similarly to England and Wales, pets are currently classed as property when stolen
- In 2019, the Scottish Government legislated for a presumption against use of short prison sentences – 12 months or less – as a means to increase the use of more effective methods of addressing offending and rehabilitation. Such measures used by judges include community payback orders
- The Scottish Sentencing Council intends to issue guidelines regarding sentencing for theft once it has fully monitored and reviewed the impact the new legislation has in practice
The Kennel Club’s position
- The Kennel Club believes that longer sentences for those guilty of stealing pets are required across the UK. We believe that current legislation fails to take into account dogs’ sentience, their role within their family, and the devastating emotional impact of their loss. Classing pet theft as a specific crime, and subsequently amending sentencing guidelines, will ensure sentences more accurately reflect the negative impacts of pet theft
- More transparent data regarding pet theft, such as the number of crimes, arrests and convictions would highlight the true extent and severity of the problem and result in more dogs reunited with their owners
- We highly encourage dog owners to act responsibly and take the necessary precautions to protect their dogs from thieves, including microchipping, fully securing their property and garden, not leaving dogs unsupervised outside or in public places, and reporting any suspicious activity to the police
Use our dog theft template letter to write to your parliamentary representative lending your support and letting them know how they can help. Your emails and letters don't need to be long, in fact, the shorter the better as politicians are very busy. By doing this you will be playing your part in keeping the welfare of dogs on the political agenda.
Download pet theft template letter
Our guide to letter writing
While we know that it is much easier simply to copy a letter and send it off, your parliamentary representative is far more likely to take notice if you write your own letter. Use the guideline below to draft your own letter:
[YOUR HOUSE NUMBER AND STREET]
[NAME OF POLITICIAN]
[PARLIAMENT OR ASSEMBLY ADDRESS]
Paragraph 1: Why you are writing
The first paragraph of your letter should always introduce your concerns to your parliamentary representative. For example:
‘I am writing to you regarding the issue of [INSERT TOPIC], to ask that you support The Kennel Club’s campaign to...’
(This information can be found on the relevant campaign page of our website.)
Paragraph 2: What you want to change
Each of the campaign’s pages on The Kennel Club’s website outlines the organisation’s official position and what is being done to try and push for change. This information can act as a guideline for telling your parliamentary representative how existing legislation needs to be amended.
If you are writing to request that your parliamentary representative support The Kennel Club on a specific issue, you may wish to use something along the lines of the following wording as an introduction to the paragraph:
‘The Kennel Club acts as a voice for thousands of dog owners across the United Kingdom. Supported by its vast expertise and experience on dog-related matters, The Kennel Club is proposing the following…’
…then write a bullet-point list into your letter.
Paragraph 3: Why these changes are necessary
Providing politicians with evidence will demonstrate that your concerns are valid. Use facts and figures to support your argument, and describe any personal experiences that you may have had to make your case even more powerful.
Paragraph 4: Action points
Tell your parliamentary representative the line of action that you wish them to take on this matter. This could be taking the matter up with their party, raising the issue in parliament, signing an EDM or supporting a specific Bill. If you are unsure what to write in this paragraph, contact The Kennel Club's public affairs team for advice.
Paragraph 5: Signing off
Request a reply. You may also wish to arrange a face-to-face meeting to discuss the issue further. Then all that is left to do is sign off:
‘I look forward to hearing from you.
[INSERT YOUR NAME]’
Once you have received a reply
To help keep us up-to-date on which politicians are aware/supportive of our campaigns, please photocopy or summarise the response you receive and send it to us by email or by post to: The Kennel Club Public Affairs, 1-5 Clarges Street, Piccadilly, London, W1J 8AB.
If your parliamentary representative has agreed to meet with you, read our guide to a successful meeting with parliamentary representatives below.
Our guide to a successful meeting with parliamentary representatives
Most parliamentary representatives hold surgeries where constituents can meet them face to face. Sometimes notices of surgeries appear in local newspapers, but if not you can contact your MP, MSP, AM or MLA’s office directly to book your appointment in advance.
Five steps to success
- Preparation is key. Make a list of questions/topic areas that you want to discuss with your parliamentary representative. Go armed with facts and figures to support your argument. You should also take a notepad and pen to write down any important points for reference
- Be direct. Introduce yourself and what you are there to discuss. State your concerns clearly, countering any opposing points that they may make. Do not become emotional – you will make a stronger argument by being calm and reasonable throughout
- Listen and respond constructively. Once you have made your position, allow your MP/MSP/AM/MLA to present you with his/hers. Listen carefully for areas of agreement and disagreement, always be positive and try to ask questions that will probe their personal viewpoint rather than that of their party
- Be aware of time. Stick to the issue and try not to get sidetracked into general debate - you will have a limited amount of time with him/her and it is important to make sure you get across all the points you wish to make
- At the end of the meeting and beyond… Thank them for the meeting, summarise your discussion and outline the steps you can take going forward. Let them know that they can contact you in the future to discuss the issue further.
For further information or advice, please contact The Kennel Club public affairs department on 020 7518 1020 or by email.