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York MP challenges government on pet thefts

A York MP today pressed the Government for action over an alarming increase in reported attempted animal thefts throughout the country.

York Outer MP Julian Sturdy, who is a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, has pushed rigorously over the last year in support of the proposed amendments to the Pet Theft Taskforce bill which include a push for harsher sentencing for pet theft and animal related crimes.

Mr Sturdy asked a question in Parliament to the Home Office today along with Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes, in regards to the Pet Theft Taskforce and whether there is an update on the proposed plans to amend the current bill. In a Facebook post in July, Sturdy said: “In April, I welcomed the Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, to a kennels in Murton outside York to discuss tougher sentences for pet thefts. I have also submitted a parliamentary written question on pet thefts to ensure it remains on the agenda of Ministers.”

A government spokesperson in response to the questions said: “We recognise the stress and concern caused to people throughout the country by this terrible crime as fellow dog and cat owners. I can tell the Honourable gentleman that legislation will be created but I cannot give a timeline on this.”

In North Yorkshire there were a reported 16 dog thefts in 2020, which although fewer than reported numbers in the North West and County Durham in the same period, there had been 11 dog thefts reported in North Yorkshire by the end of May 2021, showing the increase.

North Yorkshire Police has urged people to get their dogs microchipped (which became a law in 2016), ensure that gardens are secure and not to leave dogs unattended in the street. The force also responded to recent reports of owners taking weapons on walks and a spokesperson for the force told the York Press: “We strongly advise against doing so. Carrying a weapon is illegal and could result in injury to yourself and or others.” Suspicious activity can be reported via the non-emergency number 101.

Direct Line Pet Insurance revealed in a press release in April that during the lockdown in early 2020 due to Covid-19 that there was an estimated 2,438 dogs were reported as stolen – a 19% increase from 2019. The report said that Staffordshire Bull Terriers were the most popular breed of dog targeted by thieves, with 97 thefts in 2020, accounting for 21% of all named stolen dog breeds. Crossbreeds were the second most targeted, with 52 dogs stolen last year, although this was a fall of nearly a third compared to 2019.

The reporter’s dog Arlo, who joined the family as a puppy in October 2020