DOG THEFT: Nearly 150 dogs stolen since 2015
Avon and Somerset’s police chief has assured pet owners that “heartbreaking” dog thefts are relatively rare.
The number of cases increased from 10 in 2019 to 17 in 2020 as the average price paid for a dog doubled to £1,900 with soaring demand during the lockdown.
Reports are rife on social media with warnings about suspicious characters and a petition calling for dog theft to be punished by eight years in prison and a £5,000 fine.
And in a national first, last week Nottinghamshire Police appointed a senior police officer to collar dog thieves.
Speaking on Facebook Live, Avon and Somerset Police chief constable Andy Marsh said: “People are concerned. Dogs are a member of the family. We’ve had relatively low numbers of reports.
“In 2019 there were 10 thefts. In 2020 there were 17. That’s a big increase and every one is heartbreaking for the family concerned.
“I want a sense of proportion – it’s not a huge issue but it’s grown as the price of dogs has gone up significantly.”
A freedom of information request shows that some 148 dogs have been reported stolen in Avon and Somerset over the last six years.
However, the 10 cases in 2019, accounting for 13 pets, was a four-year low – down from 51 dogs stolen in 2015.
Some 18 dogs were reported stolen last year, and two in January this year, a pair of Shetland sheep dogs taken from a kennel in Almondsbury.
According to the figures, Jack Russells and Staffordshire bull terriers were the most targeted dogs, with gardens and yards the most likely places for an incident to take place.
The chief constable said: “We will take reports seriously. We arrested a person only recently and recovered two dogs.
“Prevention is the best thing. Where we recover dogs we like to identify them. Please get your pets microchipped.
“Of course you want to enjoy life with your pets. There are some things we’d advise against.
“Don’t leave them in the car – it’s dangerous full stop and they’re in a shop window if someone wants to steal them. Don’t leave them tied up outside shops. Someone can very easily follow you and walk away with it.
“Just be sensible about where your dog isn’t under your direct supervision.”
The force has this advice for dog owners:
- keep your dog’s microchip details up-to-date and ensure they wear a tag with your name, address and phone number – but not the dog’s name
- have lots of photos of your dog including some together with you
- make sure your garden is secure
- train your dog to come to you when called
- vary the time and routes of your walks, if you can
- use a reputable kennels or dog-sitting service, ideally through recommendation, and always check references
The RSPCA advises pet owners to report suspected thefts to the police as soon as possible, and suggests printing out posters, registering on missing pet websites and spreading the word on social media.
Words: Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter
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