UK Law Commands Serious Jail Time for Pet Theft

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson

Recently introduced private member's bill received Royal Assent to make it a law.

Photo Credit: DaisyDaisy /

We were all shocked in 2021 when Lady Gaga’s French Bulldogs were nabbed as her pet sitter walked the trio through a local neighborhood. A hefty reward later, the pooches were returned unharmed. Huh? Who, we thought, would steal someone’s dog? Was it the COVID shortage that had buyers scrambling to pay top dollar for something furry and comforting during lockdown? Well, yes and no.

Still today - well past the days of COVID - over two million dogs are nabbed each year in the United States. And less than 30% of these pets ever find their way home to their families. While the bulk of thefts is down to demand for certain pure-bred dog breeds (specifically the aforementioned French bulldogs as well as Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas who are easy to pick up and run with), others are opportunistic and result in a less than positive outcome for pooches who may ultimately be used in the training of fighting dogs.

But here’s a lead we may want to follow. The United Kingdom has decided to “bite back” by introducing a pretty serious Pet Abduction Bill. And we’re loving that the penalty for depriving a loving pet owner of their furry companion comes with a fine or prison term of up to five years.

In the United States, only 15 states have a specific stolen dog law in their criminal code to ensure the penalty for thieves extends beyond just a minor fine and a stern look from the judge. That said, even with a Stolen Dog law, the penalty is a rather paltry fine of “not less than $50.00 nor more than $100.00, or imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 60 nor more than 90 days”.

Worse still, for those states that do not have specific dog theft laws, the pet is considered personal property (akin to a TV or a lawn mower) falling under standard theft laws with the penalty based on whether the pooch had a monetary value (pure-bred) or was simply the much-loved family pet. Similar laws are in effect in Canada.

Now, you need to know that in the UK, passing such a bill is akin to agility training for a dog – many twists, turns, and hurdles to cross – but in May 2024, this ambitious Private Members Bill received Royal Assent and became law.

Here’s to those who lead the charge! May we find inspiration in their actions!

But for those of us living in North America, how do we safeguard our pets from thieves?

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), there are a few steps you can take:

-         Micro-chipping – ensures your pet is easy to identify and track

-         Adding quick contact details - including phone number - to their tags

-         Spaying or Neutering – makes your pet less lucrative for selling to a puppy mill

-         Never leave them unattended – even in a locked car with windows cracked

-         Ensuring your backyard is inaccessible – strangers can lure your pet to them.

-         Keeping them leashed on walks – small dogs can be scooped up in the blink of an eye

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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