Fianna Fáil TD for Wexford James Browne is seeking a new and separate criminal offence of companion pet theft.

Deputy Browne is proposing the creation of a new offence called the theft of a companion animal.

“Irish law considers dogs and other family pets to be mere property. This means that if someone steals a family pet, such as a dog, it is punished in the same way as if someone steals any non-living object, such as a mobile phone or a power tool.

“The current law does not reflect the emotional harm that can be caused to victims of pet theft. The penalty for pet theft should be more severe than for the theft of a non-living property. Currently, there is no specific code on the Garda PULSE system to record theft of animals, the same code is used for all types of theft and therefore it is not possible to know the level of animal theft in Ireland. I am proposing the creation of a new offence called the theft of a companion animal.

“Many people form close emotional relationships with their pets and rely on their pet for companionship and emotional support. We know pets can have a positive impact on their owners and can improve psychological well-being, reduced risks of depression and loneliness. Pets can also act as therapy dogs including reducing anxiety in children such as children with autism spectrum disorder.

“For many people pets are the only family members they have and losing their beloved pet is not the same as losing a piece of property. The potential strength of the bond between a dog and its owner is likely to cause in emotional trauma when this bond is broken. The loss of a companion pet can be particularly difficult for those who are lonely and isolated.

“The laws should reflect society’s recognition that companion pets are not considered mere property by their owners but are instead often viewed as part of the family and have a special place in our society somewhere between a person and a piece of personal property.

“The punishment for those who are stealing companion pets should reflected in a more serious offence than that of the stealing of property. Therefore, I’m calling for a new legal status for animals which distinguish them from mere property,” concluded Deputy Browne.