Is It a Crime to Steal a Dog in NSW?

Sahar Adatia.

It was the heartless crime that left a pet dog traumatised and his owner distraught.

In the early hours of 12 December 2021, an American Bully by the name of Sniper mysteriously disappeared from his owner’s backyard in South Yorkshire, England.

The disappearance sparked a sustained campaign to locate the dog and reunite him with his 21-year-old owner, Foyzal Miah.

Almost two months later, at the end of January 2021, Sniper was returned to the man, believed to have been retrieved in a local neighbourhood.

However, the dog was not the same as he was prior to his disappearance.

It is believed Sniper was stolen, and during his capture, was trained to fight, leaving the dog with trauma.

On Facebook, Mr Miah shared a post confirming his beloved pooch was back where he belongs, but could not reveal further details about how the dog was discovered given the disappearance is still being investigated by South Yorkshire Police.

“Sniper is now home and back in my arms,” the man said on Facebook.

He added that Sniper is now “traumatised and underweight”, with vets treating him, while the injuries he sustained indicate he was being trained to fight.

On another Facebook page dedicated to reuniting Sniper with his owner, it was declared the dog “has many scars over his body” and was learning to trust again.

It was also made known the family is urging an arrest to be made of the offender.

“We are busy gathering all our information including a vets report to hand over to the police. Charges hopefully will be made and we are pushing for an arrest,” the Facebook page added.

“The family are taking good care of Sniper and taking things slowly to gain his trust.

“The family have lived through their darkest hours without their boy.

“You gave them the hope and belief they would be holding their boy again.”

Pet Abduction to Be Made A New Criminal Offence in England

In September 2021, discussions were sparked for pet abduction to be made a criminal offence in England after a sharp rise in thefts were reported during Covid lockdowns.

Presently under the law, the theft of a pet is termed as a loss of an owner’s property.

However, in the aftermath of the increased Covid thefts, ministers are pushing for a new law to acknowledge the emotional distress a stolen pet can cause, both to the owner and to the pet.

Last year, it was found that around 2,000 dogs were reported stolen in England, while seven in 10 pet thefts recorded by police involved dogs.

Currently, under the Theft Act 1968, a maximum penalty of seven years in jail can apply for a theft offence – the severity of the sentence partly determined by the monetary value of the item stolen.

It is currently not known what the maximum sentence for a new offence of pet abduction might be.

In November 2021, the Government’s Kept Animals Bill set out that a crack down on dog theft could see offenders put behind bars for up to five years.

Is It a Crime to Steal a Dog in NSW?

Other than being a merciless act, stealing a person’s dog is against the law and is yet another type of stealing offence in NSW.

In NSW, this is a crime pursuant to section 503 of the Crimes Act 1900.

Section 503 states that a person who steals any dog shall, on conviction by the Local Court, be liable to either six months in jail, or a fine of $550, or both. 

Defences to the charge of stealing a dog include:

  • Duress, and
  • Where you genuinely believed you were legally entitled to the dog.

It is worthwhile nothing that it is also against the law to simply possess a stolen dog and to be in possession of its skin, where you are aware the dog has been stolen.

This is reflected in section 504 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which makes clear a maximum penalty of a $550 fine for the offence.

Moreover, in NSW, it is also an offence to steal another person’s dog and then demand a profit for its return where the owner has offered a monetary reward for the dog.This offence carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

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