NEW plans from the government could mean that people who steal a loving canine companion could face up to five years in jail if convicted of dog abduction.

The offence is being added to the Kept Animals Bill, which will make its way through the Commons, after a recommendation by the government’s pet theft taskforce in September.

This comes after The Gazette reported that officers who recovered a Dachshund and her five babies earlier this month in Tadley were congratulated.

Officers visited an address on Sandy Lane, Tadley, on Wednesday, August 11 following information received from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

A Dachshund, named Bella, was found at the scene along with five of her puppies. They were all inside a cage on the grass area at the front of the address.

Superintendent Karen McManus went to Tadley Police Station to present certificates of congratulations to members of the Tadley and Countrywatch teams as well as two officers from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council on Wednesday, November 17. They included PC Stacy Beale, PC Amy Giraudet, BDBC’s Licensing Officer Harriet Maund, PC Simon Denton, BDBC’s Dog Warden Laura Yeates, PC Lee Stanbrook, TPS Karla Leese, PC Ross Holdsworth and PC Bethan Viney.

All of the dogs were safely taken to a secure kennel and were later reunited with their owner.

The new planned offence will take into account the emotional distress caused to both the owner and the dog and help enable judges to give more targeted penalties and sentences for pet thieves, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

The taskforce was launched in May to tackle a reported rise in pet thefts during the pandemic, with evidence showing that more than 2,000 incidents were reported to the police in 2020.

George Eustice, environment secretary, said: “The loss of a much-loved pet causes unique distress. I am pleased that we are legislating to recognise this specific crime.

“The new dog abduction offence will reflect the impact on animals in penalties for criminals, and deliver justice for victims.”

Leaders from animal organisations have welcomed the plans, which they hope will “crack down on the heart-breaking issue of pet theft”.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said pet theft is “devastating” for owners and he hopes the offence will “act as a real deterrent to those who carry out this crime”.

He added: “While the current proposed law applies to dogs, we are really pleased to see the Government has also recognised how much other animals mean to people as well, and put in provision to extend it to other pets.

“We hope this new law, which will see sentences up to five years, will help crack down on the heart-breaking issue of pet theft.”

A provision will also be made in the Bill to extend the offence to other pets in the future if sufficient evidence is supplied.