The public are being asked for their views on the introduction of a law which would make the theft of pet dogs a crime in its own right.
The intention of that new law would be to increase punishment of those guilty of the crime, increase deterrence, and improve safety for dogs and their owners across Scotland.
A consultation which opened on October 24 will last around 12 weeks and seeks to collate the views of the public to bring the proposed legislation forward as a member’s bill.
Some charities estimate dog theft rose by 170% during lockdown, but because there is no central data collection point, firm statistics have been hard to source, another area the bill will seek to address.
The consultation document sets out the terms of the proposed legislation, contains the input of a number of animal charities, and the position in relation to the current law.
It also analyses the situation in other countries where similar legislation is in force.
The official launch took place on Monday at the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home.
Conservative MSP Maurice Golden, who proposed the legislation, said that currently the law considers the theft of a dog “as if they were just another household commodity”.
He said: “We know that lockdown led more people to getting a beloved family pet, and for many that will have helped get them through a difficult time and brought great pleasure to their lives going forward.
“But it has also brought an increased risk of theft.
“Anyone who’s had a dog stolen will tell you just how traumatic and distressing an experience it is.
“We need to deter criminals from this kind of behaviour and punish severely those who do it.
“As it stands, too many are getting away with it and think it’s a risk worth taking.
“That needs to change, and I hope my new bill will get through parliament, become law, and help give our best friends the protection and status they deserve.”
Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine, chief executive of the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, added: “Dogs are a beloved member of our family and at Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home we know first-hand the distress someone experiences when they are lost or stolen.
“Our pets are a source of companionship, loyalty, love and joy in our lives, and they make our family whole.
“To experience dog theft is an unspeakable loss, not to mention the worry of what has happened to them after.
“We’re delighted to see such a big step forward in the protection of dogs with this dog theft bill.
“At the home we wholeheartedly support this and hope this will bring real change to such a senseless crime that is ever growing in our communities.”