Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said having sat on the Pet Theft Taskforce earlier this year she was pleased to see its report published with some key recommendations.
She introduced the rural crime team to George Eustice MP – the secretary of state for the department of environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) as the Pet Theft Taskforce report launched.
The PCC said: “The new pet abduction offence will reassure owners that Government and police take pet theft seriously.
“I am delighted that the taskforce recognises how pets are more like family members than property for most owners and the emotional impact of having a pet stolen is a driving factor in proposing a specific offence of abduction.
Mr Eustice said: “Reports of a rise in pet theft have been worrying. Pet owners shouldn’t have to live in fear and I am pleased this report acknowledges the unique distress caused by this crime.”
Criminals have made ‘enormous sums’ with desperate families handing over thousands of pounds to secure a puppy, Inspector Oli Fisher and Sergeant Tom Carter told the Secretary of State.
And DC Sharon Rintoul gave an update on a case following the recovery of 10 dogs by detectives from Crawley with ongoing work to identify their owners whilst a suspect has been released under investigation.
Other key recommendations in the taskforce report will see the Home Office work with police to ensure pet thefts are recorded in a consistent way with data more easily shared across forces and through the Criminal Justice System, the PCC said. There will also be improvements to the recording of pet ownership and transfer of ownership with more information stored on the current 16 dog microchip databases, creating a single point of data access.
The Taskforce’s recommendations are part of the Government’s plans to make the UK a global leader in animal welfare with new measures to tackle illegal smuggling of dogs and puppies.
Mrs Bourne added: “I am very grateful to our farm owner hosts for allowing ACC Jayne Dando and Sussex Police to showcase the Rural Crime team and for welcoming the DEFRA visitors.
“Sussex residents can be reassured that they have a dedicated unit committed to tackling wildlife, agricultural, heritage and environmental crime, dog theft and animal exploitation.”