Otis Bill To Increase Penalty For Theft Of Pets Passes State Assembly

Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye) announced Assembly passage today of his bill that would substantially increase the penalties for stealing household pets, such as dogs and cats. A8185-B would increase the penalty from $200 to $1,000, with a possible prison term of six months, for the act of stealing a household pet.

Otis stated, “There has been an sharp rise in reports of pets being stolen, yet New York’s penalties have not been increased in over 40 years. It is my hope that stiffening the penalty will reduce the number of animal thefts and prevent the cruelty that comes with this serious crime.”

Pet theft is an unfortunate trend that is growing in popularity. Statistics from the American Kennel Club demonstrate a 27.0% increase in the number of dog thefts from January 2013 to May 2013. These animals are often resold to unsuspecting families for a profit or worse still, sold to research facilities, puppy mills or used as bait for fighting dogs. The penalty for pet thefts has not increased since 1970, when it was modestly raised from $100 to $200.

“Clearly, the penalties for this terrible offense have not kept pace and offer no deterrent for such acts,” noted Otis. “It is imperative that we increase the penalty to deter criminals from stealing household pets.”

This new legislation aligns New York State with other states throughout the country that have established comparable fines for pet thefts. The bill now moves to the State Senate, where Senator Grisanti has introduced the Senate version of the bill. Assembly Otis vowed to work closely with Senator Grisanti to enact the bill into law this year.

Otis has long been an advocate for laws supporting humane treatment of animals and has worked to promote dog safety practices by dog owners and shared public park access rules for pet owners and their friends.

“The theft of a companion animal is more than the loss of property; it is the devastating loss of a member of the family. If this bill can keep one person or family from suffering such a loss, it is definitely worth doing.”