On 8 June, the Government launched a second Animal Welfare Bill designed to extend further protections for pets, livestock and wild animals, covering a multitude of issues from preventing puppy smuggling to banning live exports. The announcement was welcomed by animal welfare and animal-related charities across the UK.
There are also plans in the pipeline for the Government to rethink how dog theft is classified in UK law, with a number of ministers stating they would like to see harsher punishments to tackle the growing problem.
Guide Dogs’ Director of Canine Affairs Tim Stafford was interviewed across BBC Radio stations on the subject.
He told BBC Radio Leeds’ Rima Ahmed: “I’ve got two dogs beside me as we speak, they are members of my family and I would be absolutely devastated if anything untoward happened to either of them. I’m sure that anyone who shares their lives with dogs feels exactly the same.
“The law is that animals are property, it’s a simple as that. There’s no difference between my dogs and my television, so the law doesn’t take that loss into consideration at all. Dog theft is low risk, high reward, especially at the moment. We’ve heard all about people wanting to bring a dog into their lives during the pandemic and the actual market for dogs has skyrocketed.
They are members of my family and I would be absolutely devastated if anything untoward happened to either of them. I’m sure that anyone who shares their lives with dogs feels exactly the same.
Tim Stafford, Guide Dogs’ Director of Canine Affairs
“We are finding that theft is more of a risk to us, even working at Guide Dogs. We’ve got 8,000 dogs in the community. Our dogs, like any other dog, go out to the park, they’re in people’s gardens, they go out and about and they met all sorts of different people. We are having to be much more careful these days about where we take them and if the person who wants to talk to us about our dogs is actually genuinely interested.”
While Guide Dogs has never had a guide dog taken from its owner, there have been two unsuccessful attempts this year.
Tim added, “You can imagine the devastation if you are a guide dog owner, needing that dog to get out and about and building up such a bond and friendship over its life, and then you lose it to a theft.” Catch up on the interview on BBC Sounds from three hours 49 minutes in.