- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Watch: Jacob Rees-Mogg rules out tougher sentences for dog thieves
Jacob Rees-Mogg has ruled out introducing harsher sentences for dog thieves following a Conservative MP’s plea for the government to “stand up for our pets”.
It comes only six weeks after home secretary Priti Patel pledged to "go after" pet thieves, saying she was looking at making it a more serious offence.
In the House of Commons on Thursday, Tory backbencher Tom Hunt called for tougher punishments after 83 suspected stolen dogs were seized, and six people arrested, on the outskirts of his Ipswich constituency on Saturday.
Hunt claimed the perpetrators are likely to get “little more than a slap on the wrist”.
Calling for tougher measures against pet thieves, he said: “It’s clear to me that only action in this place [the Commons] will ensure that this will cease to become a high-reward, low-risk crime.”
DogLost, a UK charity that helps victims of dog theft, has recorded a 170% increase in the crime. Some 465 dogs were reported stolen last year, up from from 172 in 2019.
At present, dog theft is not defined as a specific crime, with dogs classed as “property” under the Theft Act 1968.
This means the number of offences recorded may appear lower than in reality. The maximum sentence is seven years.
Hunt called for Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, to allow a debate on what action Parliament can take “to stand up for our pets”.
Rees-Mogg, however, rejected this, saying “when [Hunt] says a 'low-risk, high-reward crime', people should perhaps be better informed of the risk they are taking – seven years is a very serious sentence”.
While ruling out tougher sentences, he said the government is instead looking to “strengthen enforcement” and pointed to plans to roll out more than 6,000 new police officers.
Rees-Mogg also suggested Hunt has already ensured the issue is now “taken more seriously merely by raising it in this House”.
Police chiefs have previously warned that organised criminals have turned to dog theft, as a rise in demand for puppies during lockdown has meant increased profits from the illicit trade.
Watch: How England is leaving lockdown