It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I thank everyone for attending. I think there is cross-party consensus, which might not be the case for the next debate that I lead, which is straight after this one, but I am glad of it anyway. I forgot to say that I do not currently own a pet, because my lifestyle does not really allow it, but I used to be another springer spaniel owner. I used to own an out-of-control springer called Lucy, who sometimes would just run off and spring into the golf course. Sometimes I wished she would not come back, but she always did. She always knew where to come back to, and I loved her dearly.
There is a sense that the law as it stands is not working. There are lots of different options and pathways to change that, and one way or another we need to do that. Dog theft is, as Dr Allen says, low risk and high reward. The price of puppies has gone up. Thieves think, “I may as well do it. The chances of being caught are very slim, and if I am caught, that chap over there who did it got a slap on the wrist and a couple of hundred quid fine.” If, however, they see the person down the road who did it end up in prison for two or three years, that will act as a basic deterrent.
Why now? On the face of it, it might be tempting, with covid-19, Brexit and everything else going on, to question whether this is really a priority. It absolutely is. As has been stated by virtually every Member present, our pets have never come to the forefront more than right now. Something else that is cropping up on the agenda is mental health. It was cropping up even before covid, but right now—partly because every single person in the country has had their mental health affected to some degree by this crisis—we are talking about mental health more than ever before. Our pets and our animals are crucial to our mental health support. Losing them—having them ripped away from us in the way that has been described in so many powerful stories—is incredibly traumatic and harrowing. Taking action in this place to address that is incredibly important.
As the Minister said, while I was in lockdown I had a virtual meeting with my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, which was positive. I also point out that those behind the petitions, with whom I have had close engagement, are pragmatic. They have an ideal outcome, but they can still see how getting change in the guidelines would be a major step forward and something to build on.
We are a nation of pet lovers. We mentioned dogs and cats, but there is also potential for other animals. Parrots can be stolen, as can budgies and potentially guinea pigs—I do not know. We could go on and on, but ultimately those discussions need to continue. I plan to continue to work with the Ministry of Justice and with colleagues, who will hopefully grow in number. I hope that more and more Members become interested and want to retain that interest going forward. This is an easy thing that the Government can do to show that they are on the side of the public. We have cross-party consensus, so let us have some action.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House
has considered e-petitions 244530 and 300071 relating to pet theft.