Local TD one of group to make proposal to tighten laws on stealing pets

Deputy Denis Naughten has confirmed that a motion will be considered in Dáil Éireann on Wednesday to increase the penalties for those who steal companion pets, a practice that has been on the rise since the introduction of Covid lockdowns last year.

“In the last year there has been a significant increase in reports of the theft of pets to the Gardai but under the current law pets are considered property and they are treated in the exact same way as the theft of a mobile phone,” stated Denis Naughten.

“In response to a Dáil question last week the Government indicated that it is supportive of such changes in the law but the Regional TDs are concerned that this could be long-fingered and, as a result, the much needed law may never be enacted.”

The Regional Group of TDs wants the Government to use a new bill currently before the Oireachtas, the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Bill 2020, as a legal mechanism to have the law changed quickly, sending out a clear message that this practice will not be tolerated.

“We all know that pets are much more than property, they are very much part of a family in homes across our country; sometimes the only friend to someone who is isolated, the guide for someone who is blind or has other sensory issues, and this needs to be clearly reflected in much stronger legislation,” explained Denis Naughten.

“Last year Gardai received 14 reports a day of an animal being lost or stolen, a practice that is a heart-breaking experience for their owners.

“But at present the law does not take into account the emotional distress of the theft of a family pet, which we all know is far greater than the theft of a mobile phone or other property - yet they remain legislated for in the exact same manner.

“Across Dáil Éireann there is support from all parties and independents to change the existing law so that it acts as a real deterrent against this growing crime; and to make it clear that we will act to ensure there are significant penalties for those who steal or attempt to re-sell stolen pets.

“There are also unscrupulous people who, particularly during the lockdown, are exploiting a vulnerable owner of pets, who steal the animal and then claim a reward for the safe return of their beloved pet.

“The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2020 that Government is bringing before Dáil Éireann this week is a technical piece of legislation and we are looking for it to be used to change the law to ensure the theft of companion pets is not considered similar to the theft of property such as a mobile phone.

“We flagged this proposal last November and have been engaging with Minister James Browne who has a particular interest in this area, as has our colleague Peadar Toibin TD who is in the process of publishing his own legislation. We had hoped that this particular change to the law would come before Dáil Éireann prior to Christmas, which could have been used as a deterrent at a time when the demand for pets is high, particularly puppies.

“We are also seeking the support of the public and raising awareness that without the person buying these animals, there would be no demand for criminals to steal them in the first place. Those purchasing animals should make sure that they are microchipped and have the details on the chip checked in advance of purchase.

“We are also urging people to get their dogs microchipped, especially those who came to new homes at Christmas and ensure that the details stored on the chip are kept up-to-date so they can be easily identified if found. In fact, all dogs over 12 weeks old are supposed to be microchipped.”

The public can register their support for this change in the law by signing the petition to get the law updated: https://www.change.org/PetsAreMoreThanProperty

The Regional group of TDs includes Denis Naughten, Cathal Berry, Sean Canney, Peter Fitzpatrick, Noel Grealish, Michael Lowry, Verona Murphy, Matt Shanahan and Peadar Toibin.

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