A SPECIFIC law to tackle dog thefts and increase punishments for those found guilty is needed in Scotland, according to two Fife MSPs.

A consultation on a proposed Members' Bill which would make stealing a dog a crime in its own right has been launched with support from Conservatives Murdo Fraser and Roz McCall.

Both represent Mid-Scotland and Fife and say that the move has been backed by animal welfare charities, and that it should act as a deterrent and improve safety for dogs and owners.

Mr Fraser said: "I’m delighted to be backing my colleague Maurice Golden’s plans for a Dog Theft Bill.

"The law currently views a dog as the same as a household commodity. That must change to recognise their important place in our families – and this proposed legislation will ensure it does.

"I know many people in Mid Scotland and Fife used the lockdown period to get a family dog and how much joy they have brought to so many people.

"Unfortunately, the downside has been an increase in thefts. It will have been hugely traumatic for anyone in Mid Scotland and Fife who has suffered that fate. Too many criminals who commit this crime are getting away with it.

"The punishments need to be stronger, as do the deterrents against this sort of behaviour."

In March this year figures released by Police Scotland found that dog thefts in Scotland jumped by 42 per cent during the pandemic.

The statistics, obtained by The Herald, revealed that there were 88 crimes where dogs were stolen or attempts were made to steal dogs in 2020/2021, up from 62 in the previous financial year.

There was a significant increase in several regions, including Fife where one bitch and nine puppies, with an estimated value of £27,500, were taken from locked cages in an external kennel at a dog breeder’s home.

However, the figures should be treated with some caution as they do include domestic issues and disputes rather than stealing for cash.

A review of the data supplied highlighted that 42 of the 150 crimes would be fall under this category.

Views on the proposal will be heard for another 12 weeks until January 16 next year.

Mr Fraser continued: "With the consultation open on this bill, I would encourage everyone – not just dog owners – in Mid Scotland and Fife to respond with their views.

"That will give it the best possible chance of succeeding through the Scottish Parliament and ensuring that we clamp down on those who commit the crime of dog theft."