The Kent Police Dog Unit has given the charity DogLost £400 to buy 10 scanners to help it to identify whether a dog has been reported lost or stolen.

The money came from the Kent Police property fund, which draws on the auction of lost property. Kent Police said 20 dogs were reported stolen in the county between August and December last year.

Criminals can get thousands of pounds, for the animals many of which are working gundogs.

PPC Nigel Marshall, from the dog unit, said dogs had been taken across Kent and the South- East.

“Dogs are being stolen for a variety of reasons including for ransom, sale, work and to breed from,” he said.

“Animals are being taken from kennels, vehicles and in some cases, people out walking their dogs have been assaulted and the animal snatched.”

Kent Police said four of six dogs reported stolen in the Sittingbourne area since 22 January had been recovered safe and well.

In related news a petition has been launched on the Home Office website calling for tougher penalties to deter pet thieves.

It states: We want stronger and tougher pet theft legislation to increase the punishment to those involved in the theft of a dog, cat, rabbit, aviary-bird or horse. We want pets and horses to be legally regarded as living members of the family and not as objects or property… We want a mandatory prison sentence punishment for anyone who steals pets with the purpose of extracting a ransom, or seeking reward for the safe return of those animals, or with the intention of harming it or with the intention of not returning it to its rightful owner. We want police and courts to have tougher and stronger powers and to prioritise the theft of pets over the theft of objects.

The petition can be found at petitions/45882

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Police force helps to fund local dog theft campaign.