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We should be vigilant to pet theft

Column by Grantham MP Gareth Davies

After another Easter in lockdown it was a relief to hear on Monday that with three adults in every five now vaccinated and the third approved vaccine, Moderna, beginning its rollout on Wednesday, we are on course to be able to take the next important step to reopening our economy.

Outdoor hospitality, shops, gyms and hairdressers are all set to thankfully reopen next Monday. While other countries such as Germany and France are adding further restrictions, I welcome that the UK can now move forward.

MP Gareth Davies (38960450)
MP Gareth Davies (38960450)

Throughout this crisis our small businesses have gone to great lengths, at tremendous cost, to adapt to the restrictions and to become Covid safe. I recently visited a local farm to talk with the farmer who is also a local publican about how they have been preparing to reopen and measures necessary to facilitate outdoor service.

It also provided me with an opportunity to meet their new lambs! There are few better symbols of the arrival of spring than the sight of newborn lambs on our daffodil-dotted fields, so it was a real treat, but as with so many of my visits I was definitely more excited to meet them than they were to meet me.

We are certainly a country of animal lovers and so it has been particularly troubling to hear about rising incidents of pet theft in some parts of the country during lockdown. Dogs are cherished members of our families and recent reports that 2020 was the worst ever year for dog theft understandably leave people very concerned.

While Lincolnshire Police have reassured us that pet theft in our area is very low in terms of reported crimes, clearly one incident is too many.

Some have called for tougher sentences for those convicted of pet theft. Currently, pet theft is a criminal offence under the Theft Act and carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment. I am pleased that the Sentencing Council’s guidelines on theft take account of the emotional distress for the victim caused by any theft offence, including theft of a pet, meaning that the courts will now take this into account when considering the appropriate sentence.

However, while the maximum sentence is obviously very high, hardly anyone actually receives anywhere near this level of sentence with most pet theft cases remaining in the magistrates’ court. And that is if someone is charged at all – only one per cent of pet theft crimes result in someone being charged.

At a national level therefore, I agree with calls to take a good look at what we can do to better tackle this awful crime and here locally, I would encourage all owners to ensure that pets are microchipped and if you have suspicions about potential pet theft please do make sure you report it to the police.

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