I thank all the people who signed the petition and Tom Hunt for introducing this debate on this important issue. It is an issue of great personal and emotional significance to many people whom I represent. The increasing incidence of pet theft causes huge distress and trauma across our pet-loving nation. With numbers soaring in recent months, the DogLost organisation suggests 2020 will be the worst year for the theft of dogs. Pet theft is increasing across the country, with horrific incidents of people being attacked and dogs stolen in front of their eyes. Burglaries are committed purely to steal pets and owners are left to hope for the best, knowing that their pets could be sold on, used in horrific dog fighting and, in some cases, used for breeding in cruel and dirty puppy farms.
I have heard the stories of heartbroken constituents, who can sometimes spend weeks and months looking for their pets in the hope they have been lost and will return, with sleepless nights at the loss of their furry friend and the thought of what might have happened to them. To many, pets can be part of the family, lifetime companions, there as company making memories in the good times but also there in our hour of need. The pandemic has made many appreciate that company even more, as people are spending more time at the local park or in front of the television.
My mother has four sons, and if faced with the choice between having one of us or Archie, her beloved Bichon Frise, stolen, I am not entirely confident which she would opt for—and I do not think he is worth much either. Without doubt, pets and their owners can have a priceless relationship that is beyond any monetary value. It is for that reason that the law must reflect the non-monetary value of pets. After all, when the worst comes to the worst, a stereo, TV or bicycle can be replaced; many of our pets are entirely irreplaceable.
The punishment for pet theft must reflect the pain and suffering caused by such a heinous act and the emotional impact of losing a loved one. It must also act as a deterrent to those who would consider doing such an awful thing. I support the petition entirely and urge the Government to review their approach to the theft of pets, acknowledging their unique value in this nation of pet lovers.