The Pet Abduction Bill is a private member’s bill introduced by Anna Firth (Conservative MP for Southend West). It completed its House of Commons stages on 19 April 2024. The bill is due to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on 10 May 2024. 

The bill would create two new offences of dog abduction and cat abduction. It would also provide powers to ministers to create similar offences for other animal species kept as pets. Those convicted of committing the offences would be liable for a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. 

Animal welfare is a devolved matter. The bill would extend to England and Wales and to Northern Ireland. However, the dog and cat abduction offences in clauses 1 and 2, and the powers in clause 3 to create similar offences for other species in the future, would only apply in England and Northern Ireland. The explanatory notes to the bill as introduced in the House of Commons, produced by the government, state that the bill applies to Northern Ireland because at the time of its introduction in the House of Commons in December 2023 there was no functioning Northern Ireland Executive or Assembly to approve a legislative consent motion. 

The government has said that it supports the bill. The introduction of a specific pet abduction offence was one of the recommendations of a pet theft taskforce established by the government in 2021, in response to reports of increased pet thefts during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bill received broad cross-party support during its House of Commons stages, and it has been supported by various animal charities. However, some legal commentators have questioned its potential deterrent effect, as the maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment is lower than the existing maximum of seven years for theft under the Theft Act 1968

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