Categories: crime

Stealing a Cat

Stealing a cat and/or hurting a cat can put you in prison.

Cat theft

There may be a bit of confusion amongst some cat caretakers as to their rights for redress if their cat is stolen and/or hurt by someone, who might, for instance be a disgruntled neighbour or simply a cat hater. There are quite a few about. Sometimes domestic cats are stolen for their fur. Yes, it sounds horrible but it is true. Cat fur is not uncommonly found lining gloves, on key fob trickets and on toys for example. The classic way a cat hater kills a cat is through poisoning it. My late mother’s Burmese was poisoned and one was stolen.

The law is clear and provides protection in the UK – what follows concerns the law of England and Wales. The law in the USA will be similar but varies slightly from state to state. The big problem is enforcing it. Police in the UK barely get off their backsides to investigate a burglary never mind a lost cat and in my judgement the average copper is not the classic cat lover.

Cats are still (incorrectly) regarded as innanimate objects in the eyes of the law in terms of being owned and possessed. The law that protects the cat caretaker and the cat is criminal law.

Stealing a cat is theft under the Theft Act 1968. The prosecution have to prove that a person, “dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

“Property” in the above definition of theft incudes all creatures that by habit or training live in association with man. This clearly includes domestic cats.

Theft is a serious crime as it goes to the integrity and credibility of the person. A conviction for theft bars the convict from many avenues of employment.

As to hurting cats, the protection once again comes under the criminal law. I think I am correct in saying that a prosecution used to be commenced under the Criminal Damages Act 1971, which makes it an offence, “deliberately or recklessly to kill or injure domestic and captive animals which belong to or are in the care, control or charge of others“.

Today, post 2006, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 would form the cornerstone for a prosecution for animal cruelty or hurting a cat. Domestic cats fall within the the ambit of the Act as a “protected animal“. Section 4 deals with unnecessary suffering.

The big obstacle as I see it is getting the police to take you seriously and do something about it. It is unlikely in my view that the police would put any resources into an investigation for the theft of a cat unless there was a series of them in the same location and/or there was cruelty as well. The police might even try and fob off a complainant saying that the a cat cannot be stolen – balderdash, I would say. Push them into doing something.

Finally on a separate but related subject, in England and Wales, I undertand that should a cat keeper livng alone be taken to hospital in an emergency, the local authority must “take reasonable steps to prevent or mitigate loss or damage to property” of any person admitted to a hospital (National Assistance Act 1948 and National Health Act 1946). Such property must include a cat. I should have thought that a phone call to the local authority could be made before or at the time of entering hospital. Once again though the practicalities of carrying out the law is different to the written law. You may have difficulty in getting someone to do something, anything. The law I have mentioned in this paragraph may be outdated but I would expect the current law to be the similar and/or improved.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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