A NEW CRIMINAL offence to tackle dognapping and “deliver justice for victims” has moved a step closer.

People who steal a canine companion could face up to five years in jail if convicted of dog abduction, under government plans.

The offence is being added to the Kept Animals Bill, after a recommendation by the government’s pet theft taskforce in September.

Daily Echo readers have welcomed the move to combat dognapping and the “emotional torture” it brings.

In response to an online post, one woman said: “I think it’s a great step and hopefully a deterrent for would-be thieves.

“I’ve got two French bulldogs and I won’t take them out alone unless it’s public.”

However, some called for the law to cover other animals.

One man said: “Should be a longer sentence and add cats and other pets to the list.”

Leaders from animal organisations have welcomed the move which they hope will “crack down on the heart-breaking issue of pet theft”.

The taskforce was launched in May to tackle a reported rise in pet thefts during the pandemic, with evidence showing that more than 2,000 incidents were reported to the police in 2020.

When it comes to crimes recorded by police involving animals being stolen, around seven in seven involve dogs, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said pet theft is “devastating” for owners.