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Stealing A Pet: Kidnapping Or Theft?

April 14, 2022

A couple was recently the victim of two separate thefts that occurred on consecutive days. The first theft occurred on January 18, when they allege someone broke into their home and stole approximately $20,000 in cash, which was stored under their mattress. The next evening, the thief returned and stole their three-month-old puppy that was allegedly worth $5,000. At the time the story was printed, police were still looking for the suspects.

The story is an interesting one. People love their pets just as they do other members of the family. So, when a pet is stolen then, is it kidnapping, or is it theft?

In Pennsylvania, Pets are Property, Not People

Pets in Pennsylvania are property and not people, even though pet owners sometimes love their pets more than they do certain people. For example, if a dog was hit and kicked by someone, that person would face charges of animal cruelty, not assault, as they would if they had done the same thing to another person.

The issue of pet theft does not come up very often in criminal court. It is far more common for it to come up in civil court, particularly when a couple shares a pet and gets a divorce. In these instances too, pets are treated as property and not people and as such, they are subject to the property division rules of the state.

When the issue does come up in criminal court, pet theft is always treated as just that – a theft. Under Pennsylvania law, a person will face the penalties associated with theft.

Penalties for Theft of a Pet

Pennsylvania law grades different degrees of theft based on the value of the goods stolen. The penalties also vary depending on the value of the property in question. The value of the property in terms of a pet is based on the market value of a pet and not the value of the pet to its owner. The different penalties one may face after being charged with theft are as follows:

  • Less than $50: A misdemeanor of the third degree, a conviction for this offense will result in up to one year in prison and a maximum $2,500 fine.
  • $50 to $200: This offense is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.
  • $200 to $2,000: A misdemeanor of the first degree, a conviction for this offense will result in up to five years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
  • Over $2,000: This type of theft is a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a maximum $15,000 fine.

Given that the dog in the recent story is allegedly worth $5,000, the individual who stole it would face the harshest felony theft charges. Due to the fact that they also broke into a home twice, they would also face additional charges of burglary.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Allentown Can Help You Beat Your Charges

If you have been charged with theft, or any other criminal offense, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers can help with your charges. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our skilled attorneys have the necessary experience to build the solid case you need and to give you the best chance of a positive outcome. Call us today at 215-515-6892 or connect with us online to schedule a consultation.



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