UK government ministers are looking at ways to suppress the “black market” in the pet trade as MPs raised concerns that some dog owners are too worried about leaving their homes over dog fear.
Figures show that over the past year, reports of stolen dogs across England and Wales increased 11% over the past year, with at least 1,791 crimes amid increased pet demand during coronavirus lockdowns.
The government has responded by creating a new Pet Theft Task Force to investigate the rise in crime across the UK. The review is due to be published in the summer.
A number of Tory MPs took part in judicial questions in the House of Commons Tuesday to raise concerns about dognappings.
Backbencher Jane Stevenson (Wolverhampton North East) said: “In the recent Wolverhampton local election campaign, I spoke to several voters who are now too nervous to take their dogs for walks, especially in the evenings.
“Does he recognize that this is an urgent matter for her and her dogs’ welfare and can he assure me that as soon as the task force reports, the government will take action to reform animal theft?”
Attorney General Robert Buckland replied, “I am very grateful to her for her deep commitment to this matter and she is right to point out the impact of the loss of a loved one on the wellbeing and mental health of her residents in Wolverhampton and beyond.
“That is exactly why we have taken steps to set up the task force and we will actually report back as soon as possible to take into account the concerns of your constituents.”
The cabinet minister said the government is trying to fight the “black market” to reduce pet-related crime after Bolsover MP Mark Fletcher said he met a number of voters who are experiencing the “heartbreak” of pet theft had.
Mr Buckland, who expressed his interest as a cat owner during the meeting, said: “We are not only looking into the consequences of pet theft, but also ways in which the pet black market can be, frankly, addressed.
“And there are many ideas and initiatives that I think are worth seriously considering how we can prevent the incentives for these types of despicable crimes in the first place.
“Indeed, that is the work that is being done now.”
Fellow Tories Matt Vickers (Stockton South) – who joked that choosing between her son and her “slightly obese Bichon Frize, Archie” would be a “tight decision” for his mother – Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley), John Lamont ( Berwickshire), Roxburgh and Selkirk) and Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) were among those who commented on the matter.
The new Animal Theft Task Force consists of government officials, campaign groups and the police. Their goal is to investigate the problem and make recommendations to the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how to solve the problem.