Although stolen animals are currently treated as a loss of property, this won’t be the case under an upcoming legislation change which is to take into account and recognise the emotional distress that comes from the loss of a pet.
According to the government, the new offence of pet abduction will also prioritise the missing animal’s welfare and will help police to track incidents and offenders.
Sentencing guidelines have not yet been finalised, but previous reports have suggested that the offence could carry a prison sentence of up to five years.
Chris Sherwood – Chief Executive at the RSPCA – said the new pet abduction offence would recognise the “seriousness” of the crime, adding: “We hope this will encourage courts to hand out much tougher sentences to pet thieves.”
The proposal for the introduction of the criminal offence is one of a string of recommendations in a report by the Pet Theft Taskforce – which was set up in May 2021 to tackle an increase in incidents during lockdown, and is comprised of government officials, police, prosecutors, and local authorities.
After receiving evidence from animal welfare groups, campaigners, academics and other experts, the taskforce found that around 2,000 dogs were reported stolen last year.
Its report also found that seven in 10 pet thefts recorded by police involved dogs.
Quoting data from animal charity Dogs Trust, the taskforce’s report said that the price for five of the UK’s most desirable dog breeds grew “significantly” during the first nationwide lockdown – with some rising as high as 89%.
The taskforce suggested this potentially made dog theft more appealing to criminals seeking to profit from the spike in demand for pets.
Addressing the findings of the taskforce and responding to the report, Environment Secretary George Eustice said the pandemic has seen “the price of pets increase sharply” which has “created a stronger incentive for these criminal gangs”, adding that: “Pets are much loved members of the family in households up and down the country, and 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.
“Its recommendations will reassure pet owners, help the police to tackle pet theft, and deliver justice for victims.”
The taskforce’s recommendations in the report also included:
Requiring additional information when registering a microchip, especially when transferring ownership.
More straightforward access to the different microchip databases available to make it easier to track lost or stolen dogs.
Improving collection and recording of data on pet thefts.
Further initiatives by police and others to raise awareness about prevention tips.
Officials hope the proposals by the taskforce will make it more difficult for thieves to abduct and sell on pets, make it easier for police to apprehend offenders, and that sentences and penalties handed to offenders will reflect the impact on the animal.
The UK government will now look into implementing the report’s findings and introducing the pet abduction offence.
Featured Image – Pixabay
Manchester secures £5.2m funding to build ‘supported accommodation’ for rough sleepers
Manchester has secured a whopping £5.2 million in funding to build new ‘supported accommodation’ designed to house rough sleepers.
After an application submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme (SHAP) has been approved this week, Manchester City Council says it’s eager to help the former homeless “rebuild their lives”.
This means that, by working in partnership with housing and support providers Humankind, Jigsaw, and Great Places, the Council will oversee the creation of 42 units of supported housing across three different schemes.
The schemes are for single people with a history of rough sleeping and longer-term support needs.
According to the Council, these people will stay in this accommodation and receive personalised support until they are ready to “take the next step to independent living”.
This new £5.2 million funding allocation from the Government covers both the cost of creating the accommodation – which must be completed by March 2025 at the latest – and revenue funding to help run it for its first three years of opening.
“We are working with a range of partners to tackle the homelessness challenge on all fronts, from prevention in the first place to helping people into permanent, settled homes,” explained Cllr Joanna Midgley, who is the Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council.
“Securing this £5.2m funding for the city will help us create much-needed extra accommodation for those being helped off the streets who need significant long-term support before they are ready to live independently.
“It’s only part of a wider response but it will be a welcome addition to the accommodation and support available.”
The news of the successful application comes after the Council published its plan to get rough sleepers off the streets of Manchester and into temporary accommodation this winter back in early November.
With temperatures expected to reach as low as -5C by Friday, 29 November, the Met Office and UKHSA pushed out an amber heat-health alert on Wednesday, with the elderly, clinically vulnerable and the health sector in general said to be those most at risk.
Although the freezing weather obviously has the potential to affect everyone — with the likes of the North East and Northern Ireland having already been given a yellow weather warning as well — amber heat-health warnings are deemed to require an ‘enhanced response‘ as they are likely to significantly impact “across the whole health service” and possibly other sectors too.
Under the relatively new CHA (cold-health alert) system, anything beyond a yellow level alert means that it is expected that there will be increased use of healthcare services by vulnerable populations and an increase in risk to health to individuals over the age of 65, those with pre-existing health conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and other vulnerable groups like rough sleepers.
As well as the Met Office offering their verdict, the UKHSA’s Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection, Dr Agostinho Sousa, said: “With a risk of widespread overnight frosts and some snow across the country this week, it’s important to check in on the wellbeing of those most vulnerable to the cold.
“Cold weather can have a serious impact on health, particularly older people, and those with pre-existing health conditions, as it increases the risks of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.
“If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over the age of 65, it is important to try and heat the rooms where you spend most of your time in[doors], such as your living room or bedroom.”
For those considered to be at risk during this cold snap and amber-heat health warning, the official government-sanctioned advice is that if you can’t heat all the rooms in your home, it is important to heat the rooms you spend the (i.e. living room in the day and bedroom before going to sleep) to at least 18 degrees if possible.
They also recommend wearing a few thin layers instead of one thick layer, as the former is better at trapping heat than just one big jumper etc.
Other advice on how to stay safe during these colder periods includes stocking up on food and medicine, keeping windows closed and reducing draughts at home, as well as getting vaccinated against flu and COVID-19.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, you can get in touch with the NHS on 111 and if it is an emergency please call 999 immediately.