Thank you to everyone who contacted me about the Pet Abduction Bill. As a cat owner myself I completely agree that a pet is a treasured member of the family, and I can’t even begin to imagine how terrible it would be if my own cat were stolen.
In recent months I’ve been incredibly concerned about the Conservatives’ backsliding when it comes to animal welfare – particularly Rishi Sunak’s recent decision to renege on a central manifesto commitment to pass the Kept Animals Bill, which would have banned live exports of farm animals, and tackled pet thefts and puppy smuggling.
But I am at least glad that the new Pet Abduction Bill has been introduced to plug one of the gaps left by the abandonment of that Bill, and as you may be aware it has now passed second reading in the House of Commons, so my hope is that it will yet become law.
But while this new Bill is an important step in the right direction, I am conscious that we also need to tackle this problem at its source, by preventing such crimes happening in the first place. At present, crimes like pet thefts are soaring, burglaries are going completely unpunished, and the public have lost all faith that reporting a theft to the police will result in any action being taken. It’s staggering that under the Conservatives the total police staff workforce has fallen by 23%, with crimes like pet theft skyrocketing as a result. And Labour’s research shows that the overall charge rate, which is the proportion of crimes that result in a suspect being arrested and charged, has fallen to a low of just 5.4%, down from more than 15% seven years ago.
That’s why Labour have pledged to return Britain to a country of law and order, putting a further 13,000 police and police community support officers (PCSOs) into community teams, increasing patrols, and expanding neighbourhood policing teams. And we’re also committed to ensuring that there is a named neighbourhood officer for every community, so that if your pet is stolen, you can have confidence that there is a named person responsible for assisting you.
I hope that the government will pass the Pet Abduction Bill as a matter of urgency, and I will keep pressing them to take the action needed to crack down on the theft epidemic we are currently witnessing. Please know that I will always stand up for animal welfare and the rights of pet owners to know their beloved pets are safe.