It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I echo the compliments given by other Members to my hon. Friend Tom Hunt on the way in which he opened the debate and the equally to the Petitions Committee for recommending these petitions for debate. They received over 100,000 signatures, which shows better than I can the strength of feeling about strengthening the law on the subject.
I pay tribute to Dr Allen and the campaign group, and to the Kennel Club and the Dogs Trust. I am sure it will not surprise hon. Members that a Dogs Trust survey found that 99% of respondents considered their pets to be a family member. I declare my interest, Mr Robertson. Winston, my Welsh springer spaniel—having springer spaniels seems to be a theme around the room today; clearly the Dogs Trust could do some research into parliamentarians and their springer spaniels—is, of course, a member of the family.
Monetary value goes to the root of the problem about sentencing. If anyone was to put a business case together for getting a pet, they probably would not get one. The kind of sentencing we are talking about cannot be treated simply in terms of monetary value, which moves most of these crimes to classes 3 and 4 straightaway. That is clearly sub-optimal for sentencing. If anyone should dare to take my dear Winston, our Welsh springer spaniel, I would want that to go immediately to category 1, as I value him personally way over £10,000. I do not know about other Members and their dogs. That is at the heart of the matter.
I look forward to the Minister’s reply to this important debate, but I know that the good constituents of Montgomeryshire think the law is currently suboptimal. It was a pleasure to email my constituents today and say that I was talking about pet theft, and to receive more emails about pet theft than about Brexit and covid-19 in a day. It was a great pleasure to read my inbox today. There is a huge strength of feeling that the law is simply not working for pet owners at the moment.
There is a huge feeling in Montgomeryshire and rural Wales that people are starting to fear for their pets. As Wales is locked down today by our wonderful Welsh Government, people are looking for comfort. People across Montgomeryshire and mid-Wales will be looking to their pets for comfort. The least I can do for Winston, my dear Welsh springer spaniel, and for my constituents and their pets is stand up today and implore the Minister and our Government, who I know are looking hard at this issue, to look specifically at the monetary value point, amend the Theft Act 1968 and at the very least create a specific offence of pet theft, to do our pets justice and give our constituents some heart that, if the unthinkable happens and their pets are dognapped or catnapped, there will be a sentence to match that offence. I implore the Minister to do something about it.