Tag: cat theft

With A Three-Fold Increase in Cat Thefts, UK Chooses Microchip Mandate

Mandates in the wake of COVID-19 haven’t been especially popular with a weary public, but surveys show one proposed directive has almost universal support in the UK: Requiring all cat owners get their pets microchipped.

Cat thefts in the UK have tripled in the last five years, with the pandemic contributing to the increase since early 2020, police say. Authorities say they hope compulsory microchipping — and consolidating the many chip ID databases into one — will help discourage people from stealing while making it easier to reunite felines with their families.

Thieves mostly target pedigreed kitties over moggies, with Bengals as the most commonly-stolen cats, followed by British Shorthairs and Persians, according to police statistics. Thieves try for breed cats because of resale value, police say.

Dog thefts have skyrocketed as well, with thieves targeting Chihuahuas, Jack Russell Terriers and German Shepards, among other popular breeds. The price of breed dogs has ballooned by as much as 89 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, when demand for new pets and a slowdown in breeding created a boom market.

For context, an estimated 3.2 million British families welcomed new pets, mostly cats and dogs, into their homes since the first lockdowns in late winter and spring of 2020, the BBC reported. Like their counterparts here in the States, UK shelters experienced unprecedented adoption rates as people battled loneliness and depression during the initial COVID waves and last year’s long winter when the virus came back with a vengeance.

“The number one reason behind pet theft is because the prices for pets have gone up drastically,” Becky Thwaites, spokeswoman for UK pet charity Blue Cross, told SWLondoner. “This happened exponentially over lockdown, as responsible breeders stopped breeding due to social distancing guidance, but more people were wanting pets.”

Despite the spike in animal thefts, only about one percent of all such crimes have led to an arrest, according to a public information request by a UK animal welfare group. 

Police have been reluctant to pour resources into those cases, partly because the law lacks serious consequences for people who steal animals. While the maximum sentence for stealing a pet is seven years in jail, under current UK law sentences are pegged to the value of the stolen item. (Unlike the US, the UK does not make a distinction between prison and jail.)

But for people who love their cats, it’s not about the monetary value — it’s about sentiment, love and the distress to human and animal when they’re separated.

Abductions instead of thefts

To change that, a new pet theft task force — set up earlier this year to study the growing problem — recommended a change in the law. Instead of treating pet thefts as property thefts, under the proposal they would be treated as abductions, with all the increased charges and consequences that come with the classification.

Treating animal thefts as abductions “acknowledges that animals are far more than just property and will give police an additional tool to bring these sickening individuals to justice,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC.

Advocates say treating pet thefts as abductions makes sense not just as a legal adjustment, but also as a reflection of the way cats and dogs are stolen. While some thieves stalk dog parks and lure pets away with treats, others have taken to more brazen and violent means like taking animals by force and jumping people while they’re walking their dogs.

The change would require owners to have their kittens chipped by 20 weeks and adult cats chipped upon adoption from a shelter or rescue.  Failure to microchip a pet would result in a warning and a three-week grace period. After that, cat owners would face a steep fine of £500, equal to $660 in USD.

Consolidating chip databases

There are about 10.8 million pet cats in the UK, although widespread chipping alone won’t solve the problem of pet thefts and lost pets flooding shelters. There are currently 16 different microchip databases in the UK. They don’t always share information and scans don’t cover each of the databases, so even if a cat is recovered, brought to a shelter and scanned, there’s no guarantee the kitty will be returned home.

The existence of so many non-cooperating databases operated by private companies “can pose a huge barrier to successful reunification of pets” said the British Veterinary Association’s Malcolm Morley.

UK authorities and the animal welfare groups pushing for the change are cognizant of the problem and want to streamline the 16 existing database into one central repository of cat microchip registration. That will take time and will have to include compromise on the part of the various private companies running the existing fractured databases.

“Every day, we see how important microchipping is for cats and for the people who love them,” said Pet Protection’s Jacqui Cuff, “whether it’s reuniting a lost cat with their owner, identifying an injured cat, or helping to ensure an owner can be informed in the sad event that their cat has been hit and killed by a car.”

Cops Need Help Identifying Woman Who Stole Cat

Police are looking for help from the public as they try to identify a delivery driver who stole a Colorado family’s cat.

The woman is a driver for Postmates, an Uber-owned company that delivers food and other items from restaurants and shops that don’t offer their own delivery services.

Footage from a nearby surveillance camera shows the woman pulling up to the Adams County, Colorado home at 10:27 pm on March 9.

She delivers the package, then bends down and picks up the customer’s cat — an 11-month-old ginger tabby named Simba — before taking off in her white SUV.

Simba had a collar but was not microchipped, police say. Unfortunately, the suspect’s license plate number was not visible in the surveillance footage.

Unbelievably, Postmates hasn’t told detectives who the driver is. It wasn’t clear from a tersely-worded police statement whether the company has been uncooperative or it simply doesn’t have information on one of its own contractors. Neither potential explanation looks good for the company.

The Postmates app is also supposed to provide customers with basic information about their delivery drivers. It wasn’t clear why that information was apparently not available.

After police posted their plea for help identifying the alleged cat thief, several users warned of ongoing scams involving people who steal pets and demand ransom.

Simba’s case is also reminiscent of a late 2019 incident near Minneapolis in which a delivery driver stole a much-loved cat from a customer.

A doorbell camera caught the driver touching the cat and picking him up, but the angle obscured the view of the man actually stealing the cat. After months of denying to police and the cat’s owner that he stole the friendly feline, the driver finally confessed in a rambling letter to the cat’s devastated owner, admitting he tossed the cat out of his truck’s window shortly after stealing him. Because of weak animal protection laws that treat pets as property, the driver was charged only with a pair of minor misdemeanors.

In the case of the Postmates driver in Colorado, because they haven’t had any luck finding the driver, nor any identifying information from her employer, police are appealing to the public and hoping someone will recognize the woman.

6I5IUE5OSZA3VO63OVBF32LGP4They’ve released stills from the surveillance footage, as well as this description: “The woman is a Hispanic female with brown hair in a ponytail, a cloth face mask on, a gray long-sleeve shirt, black pants, and black shoes.”

Anyone with information about the woman or Simba’s whereabouts can reach police at 303-288-1535.

Reason #127 To Keep Your Cats Indoors: Bad Guys

“Hey! Sorry for stealing your cat. I felt really guilty about it, so I abandoned him by the side of the road in another town. Totes a bad impulse decision lol! I never meant to be the bad guy! I hope you can forgive me, but don’t worry, if you don’t I forgive you! Buh-bye!”

That about sums up the bizarre letter a Minnesota woman received on Dec. 11, three months after her cat, Dot, went missing.

She last saw Dot on Oct. 10, when Byron Thomas Vieau delivered a package to her home in Watertown, 20 miles west of Minneapolis. Vieau was visibly taken with Dot, the cat’s owner would later tell police, and bent down to pet the 12-year-old tabby as he delivered the package.

Security footage shows Vieau encountering Dot on his way over, and it’s clear the cat follows Vieau, but the 23-year-old Minnesota man likely nabbed Dot on the driver’s side while walking back to his truck because we don’t get an angle on the theft itself:

 

Vieau completed his delivery, and Dot was never seen again. Dot’s worried owner called the cops, who questioned Vieau, but he denied knowing anything about the missing moggie.

“Byron lied to me (twice) immediately after Dot was stolen, he lied to police the next day, I feel he is still lying about what he did to Dot,” Dot’s owner wrote in a Facebook post. “In my world this is such an unnecessary tragedy and I wish this upon nobody!”

Then in mid-December, Dot’s owner received this batshit-crazy letter from Vieau:

note-from-thief

The letter reads:

Dear Heidi,

My name is Byron and I unfortunately made a poor judgment decision to take your cat. I cannot stress enough how sorry I am, I am a HUGE animal lover and I only wanted to have a pet of my own. It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. I am so embaressed [sic]. I did make a bad impulse choice right outside of Watertown to let the cat go, I started feeling awful and quickly shoved the cat out of my car. I do not know where it went after that. This isn’t the story I gave you the first time, I felt so bad and I didn’t want to own up to things. I just wanted to take it home with me, but I quickly changed my mind. I never hurt it and I never meant to cause this much pain. I should have owned up sooner. I can only hope they can find it where I dropped it off. Again, I never meant to be a bad guy, I just wanted to give it a home. I’m so sorry for doing what I did. If you can’t find it in your heart to forgive me, I totally understand.

Byron Vieau
Dec. 11, 2019

What stands out is the lack of genuine awareness, of any consideration for the victim’s feelings or the welfare of the cat. Everything’s about Byron. Every sentence is “I wanted” and “I didn’t mean to” and “I can only hope.”

Every action is minimized: Byron Vieau didn’t steal the cat, he “made a poor judgment decision.” He’s a HUGE animal lover, and all he wanted was a pet of his own! Byron didn’t heartlessly shove a house cat — who doesn’t have the skills to survive as a stray — out of his car and abandon it on the roadside, he simply “made a bad impulse choice to let the cat go.”

Vieau tells us he was “embaressed,” he “didn’t want to hurt anyone,” and “never meant to be a bad guy.” He doesn’t mention how Heidi pleaded for the return of her beloved cat, or her anguished posts on Facebook as she asked for help looking for the “clearly well-loved” tabby.

He’s looking for forgiveness and absolution from his victim without troubling himself with considering her feelings, because he wants to feel better about what he did.

Police have arrested Vieau and charged him with misdemeanor theft and misdemeanor animal abandonment, which carry extremely light penalties. Under Minnesota law, Dot’s theft is a minor property crime of the same severity as the theft of say, a toaster, but not as severe as a shiny new flatscreen TV.

In the meantime, Dot is still MIA. Dot is primarily white and black, with traditional tabby markings on his head, and he weighed about 14 pounds at the time he was taken, according to police.

Any readers in the Carver County or Watertown area of Minnesota can call Detective Neil Kuhnau of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office at 952-361-1212 if they’ve spotted the missing moggie.

We hope Heidi and Dot are happily reunited.