Dog thefts have risen by a fifth in the last year

Dog owners will be relieved to hear that the Home Secretary has responded to public pressure and launched a dog theft government team to battle the rising number of stolen pets.

Calling the pet crime “vile” Priti Patel discussed action on the issue last month with Robert Buckland, the Lord Chancellor, and George Eustice, the Environment Secretary.

Gundogs at risk

Data from Britain’s 45 police forces shows 2,438 dogs were reported stolen last year, a 19 per cent increase on 2019 when there were 2,026. Gundogs are particularly at risk because thieves know that they are usually pedigree, well-trained and well-socialised. In fact the most commonly stolen gundogs are cocker and springer spaniels and Labradors, with owners in the south-east and south-west of England living in particular dog theft hotspots.

Statistics show that owners are unlikely to be reunited with their stolen dogs.Research by Direct Line insurance in 2018 reported five reported dog thefts daily in the UK, a total of 1,931 dog thefts. Only 17% of dogs were returned to their owners.

Not an offence?

Dog theft is not currently a specific offence and although the crime of theft carries a sentence of up to seven years according to the Theft Act 1968, it doesn’t target the particular problem of dog theft. Campaigners have set up a petition to have the law amended. Mr Farron, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for the environment, food and rural affairs, said: “Dog theft should be a specific crime, and treated with much more gravity, given that our pets are part of our families. I’d want the Home Secretary to show that she understands that and to give us some hope that she will take the action that dog owners are demanding.”

Shooting UK spoke to Lisa Dean, who runs the Facebook Page ‘Beauty’s Legacy’ which has successfully reunited many stolen dogs with their owners and campaigns for tougher sentencing for the crime. She commented on the Priti Patel initiative: “We are absolutely delighted this is finally happening after a long time. Police forces across the country are backing moves to control dog theft and I hope the Home Secretary’s action results in the law change we so badly need.”