I recognise the deep distress that the theft of a much-loved pet can cause, which is why laws are already in place to deal with offenders who commit such abhorrent crimes, but more can be done. The Environment Secretary, the Home Secretary and I have had discussions to consider further action, and I have set up a taskforce to investigate and tackle this issue from end to end, looking at prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution.
I welcome the setting up of the taskforce, because what is important is not just the sentencing but the deterrent effect, so that we see fewer pets—dogs, particularly—being stolen. The Secretary of State’s answer will be very welcome, but can he say what more can be done? I ask him this on behalf of my two rescue labradors, Sophie and Chase, but also on behalf of the newly elected police and crime commissioner in Gloucestershire, the Conservative Chris Nelson, who made stopping pet theft one of his key election priorities.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I declare an interest, as an owner of a cat. Let us not forget that this applies to a number of much-loved animals, who have, particularly in lockdown, proved an invaluable source of solace and comfort to many millions of people. He is right to talk about the wider issue. Those who minimise pet theft forget that it is often the thin end of a wedge and it might even involve organised crime. We need to take a zero tolerance approach here in order to deal with wider criminality, so we will be looking at the nature of the black market that exists and the rises we have seen with regard to the value of individual animals. All that is very much on the table.