Pet theft reform

In 2022, the UK reported a total of over 2,000 pet thefts. It is a crime that statistically grows every year by around 7 or 8%. Pet owners are educated to help avoid pet theft but when the worst happens, it is important to know that crimes are taken as seriously as they feel to us, pet owners.

With that in mind, the vet sector is being urged to get behind new pet abduction law appeal. More than 16,000 people have already signed a new online petition, after measures intended to tackle the problem were dropped with the demise of the Kept Animals Bill last month. Campaigners have called for increased collaboration with the veterinary sector in a renewed attempt to make pet abduction a specific criminal offence.

Support and expertise critical
Leaders of the Pet Theft Reform campaign say they have been assured the Government still intends to legislate on the issue, which they estimate affects thousands of pet owners a year. But its co-founder, Daniel Allen, said veterinary support and expertise were critical to that as he urged practices, companies and sector bodies to get involved.

Established five years ago, in conjunction with the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA), Pet Theft Reform seeks to change the legal perception that views pets as property. Four previous petitions on the issue attracted nearly 700,000 signatures between them and the group estimates that up to 3,000 dogs are taken from their owners every year.

One area where veterinary input is felt to be particularly crucial is in improving access to the information stored on pet microchips. It is already compulsory for dogs aged eight weeks or over to be microchipped and similar rules relating to owned cats aged 20 weeks or above are due to come into force in England next year.

But, despite the efforts of the related Fern’s Law campaign, which seeks to make it compulsory for chips to be scanned on first presentation at a veterinary practice and during annual check-ups, there is currently no legal requirement for vets to do so.

The issue is further complicated by the existence of 22 separate microchip databases which meet required government standards, which often make the finding of chip details a longer process.

Chip details access
Earlier this year, at the time the new cat microchip rules were announced, the BVA called for action to make it easier for veterinary professional to access chip information. Industry leaders have said work is ongoing to address the problem.