Sunday, 11 December 2016

Dognapping and Pet Theft in America

Dognapping and Pet Theft in America

An American perspective by guest pet blogger from USA: Amber Kingsley

For the vast majority of animal lovers, our pets are just like children to us and the attachment we feel to them is just as strong as their human counterparts. In a recent post, we touched on the subject of how a family was reunited with their lost dog after seeing it for sale online, but they didn’t pursue criminal charges against those who had possession of their pet. Apparently, they were simply happy to have them home safely.

When it comes to animal theft, according to PAWS (Progressive Animal Awareness Society), purebred dogs are the most common victims of this type of crime. Toy dogs, puppies and designer breeds like the Labradoodle are often taken for their “street value” that can fetch hundreds or sometimes even thousands of dollars.

Legislation is Lacking
You would think with that kind of bounty on their heads, stealing an animal (or holding it for ransom) would be a crime with a harsh penalty to face if the thief were to be apprehended, but you’d be mistaken!
When it comes to dognapping, where the animal is taken and a monetary amount is demanded for their safe return, only one state (Virginia) considers this a felony.

Since a dog is only considered personal property, even if this type of extortion occurs, it is generally considered simply a petty theft or in some very rare cases grand theft. The difference between petty and grand theft differ from state to state, but in order to qualify for more serious charges, a certain monetary plateau must be met, typically between $500 to $1,000.

Felony or Misdemeanor?
("felony" = a crime regarded in the US and many other judicial systems as more serious than a misdemeanour.).
Usually if you can prove your pet is worth more than the amount listed in your state’s statutes, the District Attorney can pursue a felony charge. But definitively showing a dog is worth more than say, $1,000 can often be difficult to prove in the eyes of the court and usually the thief is charged with the lesser offense.

Since animal theft is most often charged simply as a misdemeanor, police are less likely to actively search for the missing victim. If there were more aggressive laws in place to prosecute thieves and protect pets, law enforcement officials would be more prone to pursue these criminals.

The Death Penalty!
Back in the days of the Wild West, people were hung from the nearest tree when they were caught stealing a horse or cattle rustling, but today most instances of pet theft are treated with a slap on the wrist. While these old time cases of horse theft and cattle raiders being put to death was a form of vigilante justice, these crimes were still considered a very, serious offense.

I think we can all safely agree that we shouldn’t be putting a price tag on a living creature. A mixed breed mutt is just as precious and priceless and a purebred pet. They should all be treated equally under the eyes of the law and there needs to be tougher legislation in place to protect our valuable pets from theft.

Read more pet related blogs from Amber Kingsley