A new law is to be introduced in England which will make pet abduction a criminal offence.

It comes after a reported rise in pet thefts over the course of the pandemic, with around 2,000 dogs stolen last year, according to a pet theft taskforce. 

Currently the law in England means that pet theft is counted as a loss of owner's property, but ministers hope to change this to reflect the emotional distress caused by dognappers. 

It remains unknown what the sentence length for pet theft will be when the law comes into force.

But will the law apply to Scotland? Here's what you need to know...

Will the new pet abduction laws in England apply to Scotland?

In short, no, the new law on criminalising pet theft in England will not apply to Scotland

Scotland has its own criminal justice system separate from England because the system is devolved. 

While the UK Parliament is sovereign and therefore retains the right to legislate, this is fairly unusual without the consent of the devolved nation. 

Currently in Scotland, stealing a pet has the same penalty as stealing a phone or wallet, because pet theft is not a specific crime

It means that the level of punishment relates to the monetary value of the stolen property. 

However, campaigners in Scotland say the the current laws are not adequate and do not consider the emotional impact of pet theft. 

This sentiment was reflected by Westminster's pet theft taskforce, which said: "There is growing public feeling that criminal law and the sentencing for offences involving the theft of pets do not sufficiently recognise an animal as something more than mere property.

"We are aware of the calls from some campaigners to recognise that animals are different from inanimate objects through the creation of a new criminal offence, or through a change to sentencing practice."

Scottish campaigners are calling on the government to implement similar measures as Westminster in dealing with the problem, such as a taskforce.

What else did the English taskforce recommend? 

Criminalising pet theft was just one of the recommendations made by the English taskforce on pet theft. 

Other recommendations include:

  • Requiring more details when registering a microchip, particular for transferring a dog to a new owner
  • Easier access to the multiple microchip databases in operation to make it easier to track lost or stolen dogs
  • Better and more consistent recording of pet thefts as data on the crimes is limited
  • More awareness campaigns providing advice on how to protect pets.