A SOUTH Scotland MSP has backed new Scottish Government plans that would tackle dog thefts.

Scottish Conservative MSP Sharon Dowey is endorsing plans by her colleague Maurice Golden MSP to introduce the law which would make stealing a dog a crime in its own right.

If successful, the new law would not only increase punishments for those in Ayrshire found guilty of the crime, but also act as a deterrent and improve safety for dogs and owners.

The bill is backed by major animal welfare charities, who have estimated that dog thefts may have increased by up to 170 per cent during lockdown.

Commenting, Sharon Dowey said: “Maurice Golden’s plans for a Dog Theft Bill will crack down on dog theft and recognise the important place dogs have in our families.

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"That’s why I’m delighted to be backing it.

“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.

“Too many criminals who commit this crime are getting away with it. With dog theft increasing, the punishments need to be stronger, as do the deterrents against this sort of behaviour.

“I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for dog owners in Ayrshire who have had their pet taken from them.

"With the consultation open on this bill, I would encourage everyone in Ayrshire 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.”