Thank you to all those who contacted me about cat theft.
I understand the pain caused by losing a pet. They are invaluable members of our families, providing comfort, support and happiness. Pet theft is not a simple matter of theft of an item and nor should it be treated as such by the law. I believe Parliament should be working together to stop this appalling crime.
I have long supported calls for a new offence on pet theft. During the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill last year, I voted for an amendment that would have created a specific pet theft offence, but it was disappointingly voted down by the Government.
I am therefore pleased that Ministers have since decided to create a new pet abduction offence in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. Yet, that offence is not really about pet theft but about dog theft, and I agree cat theft should be included in legislation. The Government says it is currently considering this issue further.
There has been much debate about whether the Bill treats cats fairly, and I know Cats Protection has raised some concerns about this. I want to see the Bill strengthened in a number of ways, but disappointingly, the Government has still not set a date for it to return to Parliament for further scrutiny. It has now been over a year since it was last debated.
I am concerned there is a real risk the Bill will run out of time unless it is brought back for debate at the earliest opportunity. I want to see Ministers do so as a priority. I believe in honouring animal welfare, and I will continue to support efforts to push for the strongest animal welfare policies.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.