Monkey theft, you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear, isn’t an everyday occurrence in Lancashire.
In fact the recent thefts of Cotton-Top and Emperor Tamarin monkeys from Blackpool Zoo may well be the only ones ever recorded in the county.
However, the position nationally is very different. Between 2004 and 2006 at least 34 rare monkeys were stolen from zoos in Scotland, Devon, Staffordshire, Sussex and Surrey. These offences provide some evidence of a UK-based black market that trades in exotic animals, which rarely receives any publicity.
The recent media coverage of the thefts in Blackpool are unlikely to kick start any major national policing operation, as the problem is way down the list of priorities. In fact, the main beneficiaries of the coverage are likely to be Blackpool Zoo, who may have a bumper summer season due to an increase in visitors wishing to see the cute victims of this cowardly crime.
At least the theft of exotic animals does receive some high profile media coverage and wider public interest. Whereas the theft of domesticated pets rarely receives any coverage at all. Out of the thousands of cats, dogs and rabbits which go missing each year, few are successfully reported as stolen.That is because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between pets which have simply run off, been run over or indeed stolen. In March of this year, the second ever national pet theft awareness week was held. The organisers believe offences of dog theft have quadrupled over the past five years and provide practical advice on how to avoid pets being stolen. They are also campaigning for tougher penalties, and even custodial sentences to deter pet theft. If you would like to know more about their work, they can be found on the internet by searching ‘Pet Theft Awareness’. An e-petition has also been created, pointing out to the government the personal value of a pet is much higher than its saleable value and the law needs to reflect this. That is something I am sure many pet owners would agree with. If you would like to add your name to the e-petition, just visit the government e-petitions website; it already has more than 13,000 signatures. The government’s current response is they don’t believe legislative or sentencing changes are needed. The petition will need 100,000 signatures to enforce a parliamentary debate.