Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (445)

Denis Naughten

Question:

445. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice her plans to review the current legislation on the theft of dogs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2959/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am very conscious of the huge distress that can be caused by the crime of dog theft and the strong emotional bonds that owners have with their pets.

I can inform the Deputy that there is already comprehensive legislation in place to address such crimes of theft and fraud as well as related animal welfare offences, including:

- The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013;

- Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1965;

- Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 provides for offences of theft, the handling of stolen property and the possession of stolen property. The offence of theft provided for by this legislation would, based on the broad nature of the offence, include the theft of dogs. A maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment is provided for in the case of offences of theft and handling of stolen property; while a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment is provided for the offence of possession of stolen property.

The Minister of State with responsibility for Law Reform, James Browne TD, has a strong interest in this issue. Earlier last year, the Bills office approved his own draft Private Member's Bill to strengthen the place of companion pets in legislation. Officials in the Department of Justice have been asked to review this draft legislation and the Minister is in the process of considering their observations.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that approximately 205 domestic dogs and/or pets were reported stolen to An Garda Síochána in 2019. 244 dogs were reported stolen for 2020, an increase of 16%. I am advised that these figures are approximate as they are based on descriptions given on the PULSE system.

With regard to measures aimed at preventing such thefts, I am further informed that information has been disseminated to the Crime Prevention Officers Network countrywide specifically dealing with the topic of dog thefts. The Garda National Crime Prevention Unit's advice on pet safety concurs with the advice from animal welfare groups and animal insurance companies about keeping animals safe. Some of this information can be viewed online at https://www.garda.ie/en/about-us/our-departments/office-of-corporate-communications/news-media/dog-theft-crime-prevention-advice.html

Ongoing patrols throughout the country also act as a deterrent to travelling criminals and thereby help prevent criminal activity. Improved awareness of dog thefts among the community will ensure more vigilance within neighbourhood watch and community alert areas.