Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD is set to introduce a Bill on Wednesday this week which would ensure a minimum of a 10-month prison sentence for anyone convicted of stealing a family pet.

Deputy Tóibín said: “In the last year we’ve seen reports of the theft and resale of family pets. We have also heard reports of pets being taken for breeding purposes. It has been reported that professional gangs can making big money from this type of theft. It has even been suggested that thieves may leave a mark on the road in chalk or by tying a piece of string to a garden gate to target those houses for theft after dark. The recent seizure by Gardaí of 32 stolen dogs worth over €150k and four horses in Baldoyle, shows that pet theft is not going away and is becoming a viable criminal enterprise for many criminals across the country. Many of the stolen dogs were pregnant, and criminals use their pups to maximise the profits of their threat.”

“In the past 5 years, there have been over 1,000 instances of animal theft across the country with Canine, Bovine/Ovine and Equine seeing the highest rates of theft per species. These of course only account for reported incidents of animal theft, with unreported thefts or mistaken incidents of lost animals being exempted by these figures. This means that the rate of animal theft could be higher, but this is not reflected in the official statistics.”

“In 2020, despite the country rarely being out of lockdown or under heavy restrictions, 196 instances of animal theft were reported to the Gardaí. Furthermore, instances of animal theft correspond to worryingly low rates of associated charges or summons. In 2020, 196 incidents of animal theft correlated to only 40 associated charges/summons. That means for every five incidents of animal theft, only one shall correlate to an associated charge/summons. In some years it is marginally better, but not what it should be.”

“It is for this reason we are introducing the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Offences Amendment Pets Bill 2020. The purpose of this Bill is to provide for a mandatory minimum sentence for theft and certain related offences concerning pets. People value their pets, the sentence and punishments for those who steal family pets should be harsher than the penalty for stealing objects, because to most people their pets are viewed as more than a mere household or farmyard asset, a dog or a cat can be a member of the family and families that lose them are often broken hearted. People who break the law and steal a family pet should face at minimum a 10 month prison sentence, and I would urge other TDs to support this Bill”, concluded Deputy Tóibín.

The Bill has been consigned by Galway East Independent TD Seán Canney and Wexford Independent TD Verona Murphy.