Two of County Wexford's TDs have highlighted concerns they have over ongoing issues in relation to the theft of animals across the county and nationally.
Fianna Fáil TD, Deputy James Browne, has called for the setting up of a new criminal offence based around the theft of companion pets while Deputy Johnny Mythen, of Sinn Féin, also spoke to this newspaper about the issue.
The two TDs have raised their concerns in the wake of a recent incident that saw the Doyle family, from Enniscorthy, suffer the theft of their pet Springer Spaniel, Daisy, and seven of her seven-week-old pups.
An appeal by the family notched up over 14,000 shares on social media and thankfully Daisy was reunited with her owners after being found in Dublin. Unfortunately, the pups haven't been recovered to-date.
Deputy Browne is proposing that such a new offence should be called 'the theft of a companion animal'.
Highlighting that Irish law considers dogs and other family pets as 'mere property' he said things needs to change.
'Irish law considers dogs and other family pets to be mere property,' said Deputy Browne.
'This means that if someone steals a family pet, such as a dog, it is punished in the same way as if someone steals any non-living object, such as a mobile phone or a power tool,' he added.
Deputy Browne, who is his party's spokesperson on mental health, said the current law as it stands doesn't reflect the emotional harm that can be caused to victims of pet theft.
'The penalty for pet theft should be more severe than for the theft of a non-living property,' he said.
'Currently, there is no specific code on the Garda PULSE system to record theft of animals,' he added.
'The same code is used for all types of theft and therefore it is not possible to know the level of animal theft in Ireland [and] I am proposing the creation of a new offence called the theft of a companion animal.'
It's well known that many people form close emotional relationships with their pets and rely on them for companionship and emotional support.
'We know pets can have a positive impact on their owners and can improve psychological well-being [as well as] reduce risks of depression and loneliness,' said Deputy Browne.
'Pets can also act as therapy dogs including reducing anxiety in children such as children with autism spectrum disorder,' he added.
'The potential strength of the bond between a dog and its owner is likely to cause in emotional trauma when this bond is broken.'
He said the law should reflect society's recognition that companion pets are not considered mere property by their owners but are viewed as part of the family.
'The punishment for those who are stealing companion pets should be reflected in a more serious offence,' he said.
'Therefore, I'm calling for a new legal status for animals which distinguishes them from mere property.'
Deputy Mythen said he has spoken to many constituents who outlined to him 'a serious increase in the organised theft of domestic pets'.
'I have been working for the last several weeks on the issue and plan to seek further measures urgently to solve the problem,' he said.
'I have submitted parliamentary questions to establish the extent of the issue, and how it is currently being dealt with,' he added.
He has also urged the Minister for Justice to take action on the matter.
He has also asked that a new pulse code for 'possession of a stolen animal' be set up.
'The theft of household pets is an extremely distressing crime and we need to ensure that the Justice system is adequately set up to deal with this effectively,' he said.
'Imagine a situation where a young child or family member walks outside to find their beloved family pet suddenly missing, your heart goes out to them,' he added.
Deputy Mythen is urging his constituents to ensure their pets are microchipped and to be cautious of any unusual markings outside their house.
'I have heard reports that criminals are now marking out houses to target for theft of certain breeds of dogs in particular,' he said.
'I would advise people to be aware of the threat and to report any suspected theft to authorities without delay,' he added.
'I am working hard on this and I hope we will see improvements and a plan directed from the Department of Justice.'