By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
It’s heartbreaking enough to have your pet go missing.
But imagine if you discovered that your beloved companion was, in fact, intentionally stolen from you.
Even worse, consider the devastation if this happened to be your therapy puppy to help you cope with a medical condition.
In what can only be described as one of the lowest acts possible, last month, this was the harrowing scenario that faced an eight-year-old New South Wales boy with autism after merciless thieves stole his French Bulldog therapy companion from his backyard.
Dominic Yule, who is from Kirrawee in Sydney’s southern suburbs, was left heartbroken and unable to eat or sleep since his puppy, that is only six months old, was pinched from him.
The Desperate Plea to Return Therapy Dog
Around mid-January 2020, Dominic’s mother noticed the lock on their gate had been removed, leading her to realise that her son’s dog had been stolen from their Minerva Street home.
Ms Yule had saved up to buy the dog, named Kamia, to help regulate her son’s emotions and assist with his sensory processing disorder.
Desperate to retrieve the companion animal, Ms Yule appealed on TV networks for its return.
Speaking to Nine News Sydney, the despairing mother made said the puppy is a much-loved member of the family and her little boy had not been the same since.
“I can’t afford another puppy like her. It breaks my heart to see his little face every day asking questions,” Ms Yule said.
“If you can drop her back off in the backyard, nothing else will be said. It would be amazing.”
Dominic, distraught, also made a plea, saying, “I loved her into my heart. Would you please give my dog back?”
NSW Police Force Issue Statement About Dog’s Disappearance
NSW Police Force released a statement notifying that the dog was last seen “between the hours of 7:30pm Thursday 16 January 2020 and 7:00am Friday 17 January 2020.”
They appealed for assistance from the public to bring home the companion dog.
They also requested for anyone with information regarding the incident to contact Sutherland police or Crime Stoppers.
The Impact of Therapy Dogs on People with Autism
Autism is understood as a persistent developmental disorder that becomes evident from early childhood. It affects almost one in every 150 Australian children.
Therapy dogs are crucial to helping people with autism, like Dominic, to live with the condition.
According to Assistance Dogs Australia, therapy animals can ensure significant improvement across social, verbal and cognitive skills.
These include communication skills, confidence and independence, empathy to new situations, emotional understanding, tactile perception, anxiety reduction, and increasing self-esteem.
They also assist with learning routines and structures that aid development, communication and community interaction.
In fact, companion dogs end up having an impact on the whole family.
This is because, often, siblings of children with disabilities also undergo stress and isolation, so these dogs help to bring back families together through providing companionship, improved sleep and peace of mind.
In turn, this brings stability for the entire household.
Is Stealing a Dog a Crime in NSW?
In NSW, it is illegal to steal a dog.
In fact, believe it or not, specific legislation exists on this matter that is separate to stealing in general, which is known under the law as the crime of larceny. Indeed, this gives an indication of the gravity and frequency of the offence of stealing another person’s dog.
The maximum penalty for stealing a dog in NSW is six months jail or $550, or both according to section 503 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Meanwhile, section 504 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) also makes clear that merely possessing a stolen dog or its skin is also an offence.
Section 504 prescribes a $550 fine for possessing a stolen dog, or skin of a dog, if you knew that it was stolen.
It should be noted also that according to the Act, it is also an offence to steal dogs then return them for a profit after a concerned owner offers a reward for its return.
In this situation, any person who immorally takes money or some kind of reward in return for giving back a stolen dog face jail for one year.
Stealing a dog is another form of a larceny charge in NSW. Larceny is when a person takes and carries away someone else’s property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it, without having consent to do so from the owner (or whoever was in lawful possession of it).
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