DOG theft has been raised with the Department of Justice by Deputy Cathal Crowe, who has sought clarity on plans to tighten existing legislation.
The Fianna Fáil member asked Junior Minister James Browne to make a statement and was told that changes to the legislation may be considered.
Responding to Deputy Crowe’s question, Minister Browne described dog theft as “an incredibly cruel crime which causes huge trauma for pet owners”.
“I fully appreciate the strong emotional attachment we all have to our pets and that theft not only leads to their loss in our lives, but also a high level of concern for their welfare,” he said.
“It is also a crime which often affects, and is indeed often targeted against, older and particularly vulnerable people, for whom their pet is of huge emotional importance.”
Minister Browne noted that, in sentencing, judges look not only at the monetary value of the pet but also the emotional distress caused to the victim.
He acknowledged that the existing offence considers the offence as being one against property rather than a person or an animal.
“I am committed to examining the options to address the issue, including, if necessary, making legislative changes,” he said.
Minister Browne added that, from an enforcement perspective, An Garda Síochána takes the issue very seriously and “has conducted several important actions against those responsible”.
“Gardaí have also disseminated information through the national Crime Prevention Officer Network regarding keeping animals secure and preventing these forms of theft,” he said.
“The Garda National Crime Prevention Unit’s advice on pet safety, which is in line with the advice from animal welfare groups and animal insurance companies about keeping animals safe, can be viewed on the Garda website.”
The importance of microchipping was also noted. “Every dog must be microchipped by the time it reaches 12 weeks of age, or earlier if it is sold or moved from its place of birth,” Minister Browne said, “and the microchip must be registered with an authorised database.
“Microchipping of all dogs protects the animals’ welfare, and assists with speedy identification of lost or stolen dogs and their owners. It is an offence to keep a dog over 12 weeks that has not been chipped and it is an offence to sell such a dog. Microchips can be easily checked at vets and by Gardaí. They are by far and away the most effective means of tracking and identifying dogs.”
The minister added that The Department of Agriculture have also made regulations covering the advertising for sale of animals under the Animal Welfare legislation.