Today (Friday 19th January) Anna Firth MP’s Pet Abduction Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons. This follows the First Reading which took place on 6th December 2023.
The Pet Abduction Bill will make dog and cat abduction a specific offence and make provisions against the abduction of other animals commonly kept as pets (such as ferrets). This legislation will also address the growing problem of pet theft and deliver part of Defra’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare (2021).
During the Second Reading, Anna Firth MP said: “Our pets are part of our families. They comfort us when we are down and give us a huge amount of laughter, energy and joy when we are up—and, in fact, all the time. They make a house a home. That is why it is so heartbreaking when any one of our beloved pets is snatched away from us, and it is also why the taking, abducting or detaining of someone else’s beloved pet is such a sick and cruel crime”.
Several other Conservative MPs also spoke in support of the Bill, including Jo Gideon, Jane Stevenson, and Natalie Elphicke.
Currently, under the law there is little to deter criminals who would seek to profit from the sale of a stolen pet. The theft of a pet cat or dog is treated no more severely than that of a mobile phone.
Following the Second Reading, MPs across parties displayed their support for the Bill holding placards, alongside several organisations including Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust, Tilly’s Angels and the Pet Theft Awareness Group.
The Bill will enter its Committee Stage in due course. You can read more about the Pet Abduction Bill in the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation briefing here.
Firth was inspired to take up this cause having heard the story of Ann Cushion, who had her own four rescue dogs stolen. She has gone on to establish Southend-based group Tilly’s Angels with Helene Leader, an initiative seeking to reunite pets with their owners.
In the September of 2021, Ann had been out helping to locate a missing dog, when she parked her car on her sisters drive. On returning to her van only a little while later she found the van door open and all four of her beautiful rescue dogs had gone. She remembers the 'sinking, sickening feeling' of seeing all 4 dog crates empty. Ann is confident that it is only because of “Tilly’s Angels” and the reach of their FB page that her dogs were eventually returned to her, albeit in dribs and drabs. Despite this story having a happy ending, recent data from Direct Line that only about 12% of pets are reunited with their owners in cases of pet theft.
Anna Firth, MP for Southend West, said: "I am absolutely delighted that the Pet Abduction Bill has passed its second reading, and will move on to Committee stage. As a nation of pet-lovers, it is vital that the law recognises the emotional impact that theft of a pet can have, and brings the perpetrators to justice that correctly reflects this. Pets are not merely ornamental in our lives – they are sentient beings, and it is not right that the law does not distinguish this. My thanks to Debbie Matthews, Pet Theft Alliance, Tilly’s Angels, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and Cats Protection, the Dogs Trust, Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, Refuge and Pet Theft Awareness, all of whom have provided invaluable insight on the Bill. I look forward to the Bill progressing through Committee stage."
Debbie Matthews, Pet Theft Alliance, said: "I am delighted that the Pet Abduction Bill has passed its second reading unopposed. I’ve been campaigning since 2006, when my own two dogs were stolen. I was one of the lucky ones and got both of my dogs back home, because of publicity around my famous father, but the experience was so devastating I have continued to campaign to help other victims of this cruel crime, to make Pet Theft a specific criminal offence, moving them from ‘other items’ in the Theft Act and asking the veterinary profession to check microchip registration at first treatment."
Lorraine Platt, Co-Founder of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, commented: “We are delighted our Patron Anna Firth MP’s Pet Abduction Bill which will tackle the growing issue of pet theft has passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons today. This Bill will deliver a key component of Defra’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare (2021).
“Our pets are members of the family, often providing much needed companionship and stability throughout our lives. That the theft of a treasured pet is treated no more severely under the law than that of a mobile phone is simply unacceptable, and we look forward to seeing this legislation provide an effective deterrent against such offences.”