People who steal a family pet need to be jailed for at least 10 months, Peadar Tóibín has said.
The Aontú leader is introducing a bill to that effect into Dáil Éireann amid concern that there has been a surge in pet theft since the pandemic began.
With so many people working from home, demand for pets skyrocketed and the prices of pooches spiralled as well.
Overall, there was a 16% rise in dog thefts reported to Gardaí in 2020, while in Britain it was 60% according to the charity DogLost.
“Pets are obviously part of the family,” Deputy Tóibín told Newstalk Breakfast.
“A loss of a pet is obviously a significant event in someone’s life and anybody who has had a dog who has died will tell you that there’s a grieving process when a dog dies or is stolen that can last for weeks.
“So, the idea of this bill is that a dog is not a laptop, it’s not a TV; those items haven’t got the same level of impact on the family.
“And the law needs to recognise that and separate them out as well.”
'They’re like their babies'
One victim of pet theft, Ciara, rang Lunchtime Live to say that the proposed legislation is “totally welcome” and well overdue.
Two years ago, Ciara’s dog Mollie was stolen and, even though she was tracked through her microchip, she has never been found.
“We let the dogs out to go to the toilet one night, just last thing,” she recalled.
“We had two dogs and Millie came back and Mollie didn’t.”
The family live on a quiet road but Mollie had been dognapped and was sold on through various people to someone living in Britain.
“But we lost track of her over there and we have not been able yet to get her back,” Ciara said.
She was a “huge part of the family” and for that reason she supports tougher sentences.
“I feel like it’s a discussion that needs to be had and has needed to be had for a long time,” she said.
“For so many people, dogs are like their children, they’re like their babies.”
Main image: Peadar Tóibín and a cat.