There’s nothing more distressing than losing your pet, but what happens if it has been stolen? As pets are considered property in the eyes of the law, its hard to know where you stand or what you should do if your pet has been taken.
In NSW it is a legal requirement to have any dogs or cats micro-chipped and registered. This means if your pet goes missing and suddenly turns up somewhere it shouldn’t, the micro-chip can be scanned and your fury friend will be returned to you as quickly as possible. However, with so many animals going missing every year and not being claimed by their owners, many people who adopt from shelters like the RSPCA end up with an animal that isn’t registered to them.
Sadly, people do steal animals for financial gain (if it’s an expensive pure breed), for breeding purposes and also for dog baiting. In the NSW Crimes Act there is a clause that mentions people who steal dogs to profit from rewards by retuning it to its owner. It’s quite a crime to even be in possession of a stolen dog in NSW and you could get a fine of up to $550. If you are found to have been the one who stole the dog, you could be sentenced to a year in prison. It’s not a crime that the state takes lightly.
If you believe your pet has been taken, the first thing you need to do is alert both the police and the RSPCA and give them the animals micro-chip details. It’s not possible to officially report an animal as ‘stolen’ but you will be able to report it as ‘missing’. But, anytime an animal is taken to a new vet clinic the micro-chip will be scanned, therefore the vet will be alerted that the animal is missing and the person who brought it in is not the rightful owner. By reporting the animal as missing, you are also preventing any paperwork regarding the change of ownership of the animal to be put into effect. Essentially, no one will be able to legally change the animal’s ownership details from yours to theirs.
The laws are quite foggy when it comes to having a pet stolen, as its impossible to report a pet as being stolen. However, you are able to report a pet as missing and inform the police that you believe it has been taken and is not just lost. Due to the clause in the NSW Crimes Act, however, if it is discovered that a pet has been taken, there can be severe ramifications for the thief.