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Dog theft crackdown as more severe punishments could be on the way

An action plan which will tackle dog theft and animal welfare will be published in the coming weeks.

Image: Shutterstock/Intarapong

NEW LEGISLATION TO make it a more serious offence to steal a pet dog could be on the way from Government.

Minister of State James Browne has said an action plan which will tackle dog theft and animal welfare will be published in the coming weeks.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Browne met yesterday to discuss the action plan.

“I was delighted to meet with my Government colleagues to bring ideas together on this matter. It is evident the theft of a dog – a family pet – is greater than the theft of a mobile phone or other property, yet they are legislated for in the same manner.

“The law does not account for the emotional distress that the theft of a pet can cause the owner of that animal. It is my view new laws or regulations should be drafted to make the theft of a pet a more serious crime, with the penalties to match,” he said.

Browne said he wants to see laws enhanced to support victims of pet theft. 

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project to find out if enough is being done to protect our pooches from trafficking.

Government will examine whether new legislation is needed or whether amendments can be made to existing laws to make punishments more stringent.

Consideration is being given as to whether to make it a standalone offence for stealing a  support dog. Whether to make the theft of a dog an aggravating factor when sentencing is also being considered. 

The issue of pet theft was highlighted in the Dail last month by Independent TD Denis Naughten, who raised concerns about there being a 33% increase in the reports of thefts of pets to the gardaí this year.  

Under the current law, pets are considered property and they are treated in the same way as someone stealing a mobile phone, he said.

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“We all know that pets are much more than property.  They are part of the family in homes across this country. They are sometimes the only friend for someone who is isolated and a guide for someone who is blind or has sensory issues,” he said.

He said a “real deterrent” is needed to stamp out the crime. 

Replying, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was “appalling to see an increase in this crime of people stealing pets off other people, often older and vulnerable people”.

“I do not have a pet but I know many people who do and I do not think anybody regards their cat or their dog to be property in the way they would a mobile phone or something like that. It is almost like a member of the family being stolen. It is a serious offence and needs to be treated that way,” he said.

Varadkar promised to speak to the Minister for Justice to see if the laws could be strengthened.

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