Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour Animal Welfare spokesperson Colin Smyth has urged the Scottish Government to strengthen the laws around pet theft, following huge rise in such crimes in recent years.

Speaking during a debate on the issue, Colin Smyth said it is time to reassess the law so we do not continue to regard pets as merely property when it comes to theft.

The UK Government is planning on bringing forward new legislation to create a new criminal offence for pet abduction. The new law will recognise the welfare of animals and that pets are valued as more than property but as the issue is devolved, it won’t apply in Scotland. Colin Smyth believes the Scottish Government should bring forward its own proposals.

Speaking in the debating chamber, the local MSP said: “Pet theft is not treated with the seriousness that it deserves in our society.

“Legally, stealing a dog is pretty much treated in the same way as stealing someone’s phone, and that simply cannot be right.

“At present, the law does not adequately consider the emotional distress caused by the loss of a pet. Pets are companions. They are part of our families, and the law should better acknowledge that.

“Now certainly seems to be the time to reassess the law so that we do not continue to regard pets largely as property. The past few years have been really challenging for everyone. During that time, for many people, their pets have provided company and support through periods of isolation and constant worry. More and more people have turned to pets to provide that comfort at times of huge uncertainty, and more than ever we understand and better appreciate the huge benefits that a pet can bring to a household.”

Colin Smyth also said that while there has been a big rise in dog theft during the pandemic, cats have also been stolen.

He continued: “There has been a big rise in dog theft during the pandemic—it has gone up by around 170 per cent, partly because the price that is paid for dogs has risen by as much as 89 per cent. Of course, the monetary value of a loved pet is what owners care about the least.

“It is important that we protect, through robust animal welfare laws, all of our animals, whatever their monetary value.

“That point has been made by Cats Protection. It might be less reported, but cat theft in the UK increased by 194 per cent between 2015 and 2020, and that crime will impact on a family just as much as the theft of a dog. We also know that, in Scotland, although all dogs over eight weeks old must be microchipped, that is not the case for cats, which makes it much more difficult to return stolen or lost cats to their owners.

“We should bring all pets under the same protections. All pets should be treated as treasured animals and not just treated as property, whether they are cats or dogs.

“Introducing a criminal offence for pet abduction would be a positive step forward. I believe that it would bring us in line with other parts of the UK and other parts of the world that have already committed to such a move.”


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