You may recall a news story we brought to you last year involving a beloved pet dog being stolen by a stranger from a home in southwest Sydney.
In summary, “Atlas”, a Japanese Spitz and cuddly companion renowned for being a “big, fat, friendly ball of fur”, was pinched from her very own property in the suburb of Fairfield, leaving her owner Elise Pham distraught for days before the pooch was eventually found and returned to her.
Now in a twist of events, it turns out the woman behind the crime has escaped conviction for stealing the five-year-old dog from the owner, but has instead received a fine of $500 for not wearing a mask as the incident took place during the peak of Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown in 2021.
On Tuesday 7 June 2022, Sandi Mooshi faced court for her offence.
She told the magistrate she was sorry for taking the dog, which took place in August 2021.
While the 24-year-old managed to get away with not receiving a conviction for her theft of Atlas, she did, however, end up being slapped with a $500 fine after she was found not wearing a mask.
At the time of her stealing offence, it was compulsory to wear a face mask, as per the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Officers had reviewed CCTV from the surrounding area, which led them to the discovery of Ms Mooshi.
In the footage, the woman could be seen crouched by her car, following which she allegedly swiftly seized the dog, put her inside the car, then quickly drove off.
Thanks to the commitment of local police officers, within two days, Atlas was found and reunited with her owner.
The Penalties You Can Face for Stealing a Dog in NSW
Stealing a person’s dog isn’t just heartless act – it’s actually against the law.
The crime attracts penalties including fines and the possibility of jail time.
If you are in NSW, pursuant to section 503 of the Crimes Act 1900, it is against the law for a person to steal any dog, and, on conviction by the Local Court, is liable to either six months in jail, or a fine of $550, or both.
In NSW, it is also an offence to simply have a stolen dog in your possession or to be in possession of its skin, where you are aware the dog has been stolen.
If caught, you can face a fine of $550, as reflected in section 504 of the Crimes Act 1900.
Similarly, it is against the law to steal another person’s dog and request a profit for its return where the owner has offered a financial reward for their pet’s return.
If caught committing this offence, you can face maximum penalty of one year in jail.
Defences to the charge of stealing a dog include duress and where you genuinely believed you had a legal right to the dog. This is called the defence of a claim of right.
How You Can Prevent Your Dog from Being Stolen…
Dog theft is sadly on the rise.
The increase in cases has come against the sharp rise in demand for puppies that took place during the pandemic, and the resulting surge in prices, leaving criminals seeing dog theft as an easy way to make money.
Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the thought alone of your pet being stolen is completely heartbreaking.
While police forces and the community are doing more to protect our beloved companions from callous thieves, as a pet owner, there are ways to protect your dog from theft.
Here are five ways you can protect your dog from being stolen:
1. Avoid leaving your pet unattended
It is crucial that you know where your pet is at all times. Avoid leaving them outside unattended for long periods of time, especially tied up outside a store or restaurant while you go inside. Even if your dog is simply playing in your backyard, you should always have your eye on them.
2. Secure your backyard to keep thieves out
Try to only leave your pet in your garden if it is sufficiently secured. Make sure your fences are robust and difficult for a thief to climb in to or for your dog to get out, with locks placed on front and side gates.
3. Mix up times and routes for your daily walks
If you vary the time of day, place and route that you walk your pet, potential thieves loitering in the area are less likely to become familiar with your routine. Many dogs are targeted and snatched during walks – thieves tend to master an owner’s walking pattern and use this to plan when to strike.
4. Never leave your pet alone in the car
You might think your dog is perfectly safe locked in your car while you run into the grocery store or the bank. However, in that brief time, a determined thief, well adept in the art of stealing, can easily break in and snatch your companion.
5. Make sure your dog always wears ID
Your pet should always be donning his ID tag, even while on your property. It’s also crucial to microchip your pet. A microchip is a reliable form of identification given that it can’t fall off or fade with time. Where a theft may take place, it can also help you establish proof of ownership.
By Sahar Adatia.