Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, has usefully written about pet theft in the UK for the Mail on Sunday. His article is published on the Mail Online website. Observers will have read the stories about the surge in pet thefts in the UK, mainly of dogs, due to the Covid-19 pandemic which encouraged people to adopt dogs. This in turn resulted in a sharp increase in the value of dogs which in turn led to criminals seeing an opportunity to make some quick money by stealing desirable pedigree dogs such as French bulldogs. Sometimes they breed from them if they are unneutered, sometimes they hold the dog as a ransom for thousands of pounds and on occasions they simply sell them on at inflated prices, sometimes four times pre-Covid values (£4,000).
The Prime Minister disagrees that pet theft is trivial. Reading between the lines I believe he is referring to two aspects of this crime. Firstly, there is a heavy emotional context. Pets are members of families. To lose your cat or dog to theft creates enormous emotional distress both in the animal and the human. It can create great anguish in cat and dog owners. You can read stories on the Internet about this. One example is pensioner Mike Jasper, a retired police officer who was knocked to the ground and his sprocker spaniel, Ted, stolen. His daughter said that the theft has been devastating, “Dad has just been completely broken.”
The other aspect of this crime which is important concerns the “broken window theory”, which Boris Johnson strongly believes in. This theory states that if you see broken windows in derelict buildings it encourages crime. In other words minor crime leads to more serious crime. If you want to stop serious crime then you must be “ruthless in dealing with offences that might seem second-order to some, but which in reality cause huge pain and grief to the victims.”
Boris Johnson is referring to pet theft and the government has set up the Pet Theft Task Force under the leadership of the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland to ensure that the criminal justice system is “dealing properly with anyone who is so malicious as to steal a dog.”
Or cat! He describes the thieves who steal cats and dogs as nasty individuals which is entirely correct, of course. It is good to see the government focusing on this callous crime. I suspect that his fiancée Carrie Symonds had something to say about it and has encouraged him to write about it and take some positive steps to try and put on the brakes. There are many very upset cat and dog owners in the UK because they’ve lost their companion to theft. The hammer must come down on these nasty criminals.