Pet thieves could face 5 years in jail under new law

Man carrying a dog over his shoulder walking towards a car
(Image credit: Getty Images/Daisy-Daisy)

Pet theft will become a criminal offense in England and Northern Ireland from August, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine, or both. 

The Pet Abduction Act 2024 received Royal Assent (which is when the King decides to make a bill into law) on the 24th May. 

Pets were previously considered as property under the 1968 Theft Act, however, this new law acknowledges them as “sentient beings capable of experiencing distress and other emotional trauma when they are stolen from their owners or keepers”.

In the US, pet theft is usually a criminal offense under general theft and larceny laws, and the punishment depends on the state.

From the 10th June, it will also become compulsory for cats to be microchipped. This will help lost animals to be reunited with their owners and to prevent against theft. 

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs wrote: “Evidence from the Pet Theft Taskforce suggests around 2,000 dog and over 400 cat theft crimes were reported to police in 2020, causing considerable distress for owners and their pets alike. With an estimated 28% of UK adults owning a dog and 24% owning a cat, pet theft is a major concern to the public.” 

You can read the full Pet Abduction Act here.

How to prevent pet theft

If you're concerned about the rise in pet theft, here are some ways that you can prevent it:

1. Don't leave your dog unattended in public places or the car

2. Keep your garden or backyard safe using one the best outdoor wireless cameras for pets

3. Make sure your dog sitter is someone you know is trustworthy

4. Make sure your pet is microchipped

5. Invest in one of the best pet trackers 

Tractive Dog GPS Tracker with Activity Monitoring

Tractive Dog GPS Tracker with Activity Monitoring

$49.99 at Chewy

This GPS tracker allows you to monitor your dog's location in real-time, giving you the reassurance you need.

6. Don't walk the same route everyday with your dog

7. Ensure your house is secure

8. If you post photos of your pet online, make sure your account isn't public

9. Practice recall training

10. Spay or neuter your pet

Tractive Cat & Dog GPS Tracker with Activity Monitoring

Tractive Cat & Dog GPS Tracker with Activity Monitoring

$49.99 at Chewy
If you're worried about your cat's whereabouts, this GPS tracker will come in handy. Simply clip it into their collar and you can watch their location from your phone.

Annabel Berdy, Senior Advocacy and Government Relations Officer for Cats Protection, said: “Up until now, the theft of pets has been dealt with in the same way as the theft of property like a mobile phone or a bike. It is not recorded as a specific offence, and there has been no recognition of the pain, fear and stress suffered by stolen pets and their owners.

“This has allowed pet theft to go unchecked for far too long, giving criminals free rein to target much-loved animals for their own gain. In the absence of specific legal protection for pets, a murky industry has been able to flourish – with pets being snatched from safe, loving homes to be kept as breeding animals or sold on.

“The Pet Abduction Bill could be one of the most significant animal welfare laws of recent times and will make a huge difference to many owners and their much-loved pets.”

Megan Milstead
Staff Writer

Megan is a Staff Writer on PetsRader, covering news, features and buying guides. She has a wealth of experience looking after animals, having grown up with dogs, cats and horses all of her life. She’s particularly interested in pet happiness and behavior, which she loves to research in her spare time. You’ll often find her watching webinars on reactivity in dogs or researching cat body language. She loves going the extra mile for her cats Chilli and Nala (who also help out with testing the best products for our buying guides). 

Megan studied BA Journalism at the University of Westminster, where she specialized in lifestyle journalism and was editor of Smoke Radio’s online magazine. She also graduated from West Herts College with a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Journalism. Before joining the PetsRadar family last year, she worked on the editorial team at Harrods and has spent most of her career writing for specialized titles, like RunningShoesGuru, Licklist and Mr. After Party. 

Megan works alongside qualified vets and accredited trainers to ensure you get the best advice possible. She is passionate about finding accurate and helpful answers to your pet-related questions.