Theft of Pets in Utah

Theft of pets are on the rise in Utah and many residents are inquiring what the laws are regarding stealing someone else’s companion animal.

Pets are property

Photo by: Sue Salisbury

Most people that own pets will say their fur-babies are family. According to Utah law however, pets are not children; they are considered property instead. Stealing a pet is not kidnapping or dognapping- it is theft. Theft of property such as a dog, cat, bike, or DVD player is punishable depending on the value of the property. Although pet owners would say it is impossible to put a dollar amount on a pet, many animals were either purchased or adopted for a fee which could be used to determine a monetary amount.

Monetary Value

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Domesticated pets such as small mammals and cats do not have a high monetary value but purebred dogs and specialty or exotic animals can range greatly in price and value. Birds such as large Cockatoos and Macaws can be worth thousands of dollars while purebred dogs can vary from $300 to as much as $14,000 depending on the type of dog, their lineage, and whether or not they come with papers. The punishment for theft of a pet depends on what that animal is worth. According to Utah Code 76-6-412:

• If the value of the pet is less than $500, the dog thief may face class B misdemeanor charges;
• If the pet is worth more than $500 but less than $1,500, it is a class A misdemeanor;
• Theft of a pet valued at more than $1,500 but less than $5,000 is a third degree felony;
• Stealing pricey animals that exceed the monetary value of $5,000 can result in second degree felonies.

These charges are enhanced if the offender has prior offenses related to theft, burglary, or robbery.

Reason for stealing an animal

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The majority of pet thefts occur for the purpose of making a dishonest profit by reselling the animal, however there are other reasons for stealing pets that could result in separate charges.

• Waiting for the reward. Many times when a pet goes missing, the family will offer a reward for the safe return of their furry family member. Some pets are stolen and then given back to the family once the reward is offered. Even if the plan is to return to pet, it is still considered theft or perhaps wrongful appropriation which is punishable one degree lower than theft according to Utah Code 76-6-404.5.

• Relocating a neighbor’s pet. Some pet thefts occur from a disgruntled neighbor getting rid of a nuance animal.There have been cases throughout Utah of animals being stolen and dropped off in remote areas or even let out of a fenced yard. Stealing a pet to abandon it or releasing it on the street could constitute cruelty to animals if the animal is left in what section 76-9-301 states to be a “situation where conditions present an immediate, direct, and serious threat to the life, safety, or health of the animal.” Charges for intentional abandonment of an animal can range from a class C to class B misdemeanor.

Photo by: Stacy

• Fighting dogs. Sadly, some breeds that get a bad rap for being prone to dog aggression are often stolen based on that natural tendency. Pit bulls which are quickly becoming a beloved pet among families also have a history of violence towards other dogs and people if they are treated or raised poorly. This breed is known for being powerful while doing a lot of damage when they do attack and that may be why they are so popular in the illegal dog fighting ring. If dogs are stolen for use in dog fighting, the charges can include theft as well as third degree felony charge for training or causing a dog to fight as stated in Utah Code 76-9-301.1.

Missing or stolen

While there is an uptick of pet thefts throughout Utah, there are also many animals that go missing without any human involvement. Missing pets should be reported to animal control and posted on flyers as well as social media sources to get the word around. If someone truly feels their pet has been stolen, the owner should notify the authorities while also keeping an eye on resale sights such as Craigslist and Facebook yard sale sights. For anyone charged with stealing a pet whether to make a quick buck, get back at a neighbor, or commit another crime involving the pet, it is important to speak to an attorney about the charges prior to admitting fault to police.

Thieves Watch Content of Trash Pick-up after Christmas for Targets

Many gifts were opened today leaving behind mountains of trash and recycled boxes leftover from pricey gifts. Unfortunately, these remains of happy Christmas mornings may cause some residents to become potential targets of post-Christmas thieves.

Trash content post-Christmas

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As the Christmas festivities wind down for many Utah residents and the presents have all been opened, there are some who are still in the market to return home with gifts. Regrettably, they do not plan on making legal purchases. Many law abiding residents unknowingly put themselves at risk of break-ins from these post-Christmas thieves. What is this common mistake that makes some become targets over others? It is simply placing evidence of gifts outside for all to see.

List of new inventory

Most of the new gadgets, televisions, gaming systems, and other expensive items given as gifts this year come in packaging meant to showcase the item that is found inside. Once these items are unboxed, the packaging goes out to the curb to be disposed of by the trash and recycle companies on the next designated “trash day”. Until then, anyone who is able to walk up and open a bin or just be within sight of the trash pile will know what special presents were opened on Christmas morning. By putting trash evidence of new expensive gifts outside, a family may as well post a list of their new inventory for any passer-by to see.

Keep them guessing

Utah residents should take precautions after Christmas by breaking down large noticeable boxes to fit more discretely in bins and even keeping any gift packaging locked up in a garage or shed until immediately before trash pickup. Trash and recyclable packaging may also be disposed of in a location away from a person’s place of residence. These tips will not deter all break-ins, but will at least keep many thieves guessing at what they may find if they do decide to illegally enter a home after Christmas.

Is Sharing Cable Television Legal?

Cable television can be extremely expensive leaving some Utah residents to wonder if sharing the service and cost with a neighbor is legal.

Cable television cost

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Many Utah residents begin cable television services as part of a special, low-price promotion only to see prices skyrocket at the end of promotional period. When this happens, residents may be locked in for an extended period of time or not wanting to continue under the new inflated price. Some choose to either shop around for other prices and risk paying early termination fees or remove cable television services altogether.

Cable sharing

There are those residents who don’t want to terminate cable television but are also unwilling to pay the full price of the service. This could lead to individuals looking for shortcuts on how to save their cable along with their wallets. One of the options possibly sought after is sharing cable television and the cost with a neighbor. What many do not realize however, is that even if both neighbors agree to the arrangement it is still illegal. If cable television customers pay special attention to the contract they signed prior to services, they will usually note that sharing services is prohibited. Ignoring this stipulation could result in criminal charges.

Theft of cable television services

Utah code 76-6-409.3 states, “A person is guilty of theft of (…) cable television service if the person commits any prohibited acts which make (…) cable television available to a tenant or occupant, including himself [or a neighbor] with intent to avoid due payment to the (…) cable television company.” Depending on how long the cable sharing took place and how much the cable company lost due to the illegal 2-4-1 special, those involved could face charges ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony. They may also be flagged from receiving cable television through that company in the future and risk civil charges from the cable provider. Utah residents are encouraged to obtain services such as cable legally through the proper channels to avoid legal repercussions.