JoAnna Lou
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Making Dog Theft a Felony
NY bill passed to strengthen punishment for pet thieves

Having a beloved pet stolen is one of my worst nightmares. In New York, pet thieves are typically only charged with a misdemeanor since dogs are considered property by law. The value of stolen property must exceed $1,000 to qualify as a felony larceny. Since it's hard to place a dollar value on an animal, most thefts are prosecuted as the lesser offense. Fortunately, it looks like this may be changing for the better.

Earlier this week, the New York State Senate passed a bill with a landslide 58-3 vote that would make it a class E felony to steal a cat or dog. If the bill becomes a law, stealing a pet could get you up to four years in jail. The State Assembly is expected to pass its version of the bill later this month.

Besides making pet theft a more serious crime, the law would also give police a greater incentive to look for missing pets. Since most cases are prosecuted as a misdemeanor, often police can only take limited action on reported thefts. This bill seeks to rectify these situations.

Similar legislature has had difficulty getting adequate support in the past, but judging from the overwhelmingly positive response in the Senate, I'm hopeful that this bill will be passed.

I consider my dogs to be family, so ultimately I wish the law would be changed so that pets would not be considered property. However, I think this bill is certainly a big step in the right direction.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by havankevin/flickr.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Elia | June 6 2011 |

GO NY! where I live, they keep getting robbed to collect the rewards, to be resold, or to be bred. While not as bad as kidnapping, It is far worse than getting a bike, or a tv stolen. It can't be treated the same.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 29 2011 |

WV needs this law. I had my two puppies stolen by a girl claiming to work with this "rescue" organization. Not only is this "organization" corrupt, it is a kill shelter. I wad terrified my puppies were going to be put to sleep. I called the animal hospital in the area and alerted them that these puppies were stolen and gave my vet reference, they called me back in 3 hours to tell me my puppies were brought in. My friend has had numerous dogs come up missing/stolen, and go figure, this girl is his neighbor. I am going to pick up my puppies in the morning, but as to those that can not be given back to their rightful owners, I feel so sorry for the animals as well as the owners. Stealing is a crime, especially when it is stealing your family pet from your home. These animals are apart of families that love and care for them, and who knows where they end up. Thumbs up for trying to make this a felony!!! I am filing my reprot tomorrow, but I will have very little luck, just hope it doesn't happen again.

Submitted by Anne | July 24 2011 |

Jazzie was taken from her backyard in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and we are looking all over for her - may have been taken by rescue group for profit and sold, taken to the another province or the United States or dumped because they couldn't sell her. Thank you for any help you can provide in helping locate her - We are devastated. We will pay for any medical costs or misc. cost you might incur should she come into your care. Jazzie is a female shih tzu, spayed, microchipped, tattooed, was wearing black leather collar with name, vet rabies id, last seen Feb 24, 2011 at my home in Stiitsville, ON near Ottawa -weighed about 20 lbs but may be less now. She has a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/BringJazzieHome?ap=1 and e-mail bringjazziehome@gmail.com REWARD FOR HER SAFE RETURN! Contact 613-220-3588 0r 315-413-8868.
Pictures of Jazzie may be seen at: http://x10hosting.com/forums/album.php?albumid=492

Submitted by Chloe Knudsen | July 26 2011 |

On July 19th, my dog was taken stole from my property by the Forrest City Humane Society. Four months prior to this a dog had been abandon and left on my property. I had 10 other dogs at the time. A few weeks after that I spoke to Janie Hicks, president of the Forrest City Humane Society and told her we MIGHT want to find him a home, but after having him for approximately 4 months we fell in love with him and wanted to keep him, but she would not take no for an answer and kept calling and insisting that she had found someone to adopt him but we continued to say, "NO!" Well, on that Tuesday my daughter and granddaughter were here for a visit from Flordia and we went out for the day, when we arrived our beloved dog was gone. This Janie Hicks even called me to say she had taken my dog. I called the St. Francis Sheriff Office and they sent a officer out but he refused to do anything and kept saying it was a civil issue. This Janie Hicks also went the my Vet's office and gained access to my personal vet medical records on my dog and had a staff member make her copies and the copies were falsified to make it look like the dog was owned by the Humane Society, even though the dog had never been in the Humane Society's care.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 9 2012 |

My dog was stolen January 22,2012. I would love to see these people pay! My dog was a pit/boxer and from what I have been told he will be more than likely used for either a bait dog or fighter! This just kills me! I would like to change the laws where these people have to pay! I would also like to make it where these research labs can not just buy a group of dogs from whom ever! From what I have been told they take truck loads of dogs and these people get paid 150 dollars per dog! Any information on where to start to get the laws changed would be greatly appreciated! I have no clue where to start! Please help sent me information!

Submitted by Anonymous | September 19 2012 |

I believe that the law needs to change to protect the rights of the animals but I believe that it should be done differently.
I know of a man who keeps 2 puppies tied up in the backyard 24-7 with no shelter. They are out there in the cold wind, rain, and eventually snow. He doesn't feed them on a regular basis and kicks them when he pleases. We have called the local animal control and the police and they say there isn't enough evidence. What more evidence do they need? These animals are filthy and obviously neglected. By law you need to provide food and shelter to a human under your care but an animal can be treated this poorly. They are not property, they are living things! Sometimes you need to break the law to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
I feel for the owners of pets who have been stolen out of loving and caring homes but I am very close to stealing these puppies from a man who clearly does not deserve them.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 29 2012 |

i am on the fence about this because i know people who have "stolen" dogs. the dogs they took had been severely mistreated, and even though shelters/animal control was called, nothing was done. and there was no way that those dogs were going to be left there to continue to be beaten, not fed, and possibly even killed. for those that did it, i commend them for doing something to save these animals lives when no one else would lift a finger. and no i dont agree with others that have lied and taken animals, saying that they work for this organization or that. but let me ask you, if you saw someone abuse and neglect there animals and nothing was being done. wouldnt you be compelled to do something to make life better for the animals??

Submitted by lakeisha cole | May 10 2014 |

I would like to know how much is a chi weiner worth cause they gave me a felony theft cause they said the dog worth $2700 dollars.

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