Officers are warning that criminals are exploiting the huge increase in prices and demand for puppies over the Coronavirus restrictions.
The charity DogLost has seen reports of thefts rise by 170% in the last year from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 in 2020.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Acquisitive Crime, Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said:
“Dog theft can be a devastating crime for families and causes considerable distress to owners. Whilst it is still a very rare crime, it’s sadly something we have seen increasing recently.
“During the Coronavirus pandemic criminals have adjusted their activities and are taking advantage of the big demand for pets over the lockdown period. The cost of a puppy has considerably increased over the past year making this a lucrative market for organised criminals to exploit.”
Police across the country are taking robust action to target those responsible for dog theft.
Recently in Greater Manchester officers arrested three people after a member of the public reported seeing someone carrying seven English Bulldogs puppies (pictured below) into a property. Two 21-year-old men and a 20-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of burglary.
Whilst in Wales Dyfed-Powys Police has returned nearly 30 dogs to their rightful owners after officers found 80 animals at a property in Carmarthenshire (some pictured below). One person was arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods and another on suspicion of burglary. Inquiries continue.
A joint operation between Avon and Somerset Police and Wiltshire Police resulted in the arrest and charge of two men following the alleged theft of several dogs at a property in Bristol.
In Cambridgeshire two dogs were reunited with their owners after officers executed a warrant. Two men, in their 20s and 40s, were arrested.
Last month in Aberdeenshire Police Scotland officers traced Skye the Cocker Spaniel after she was stolen in November from her kennel. A 25 year old man was arrested and charged.
Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman added:
“We rely on the public providing us with information and would urge anyone who sees anything suspicious to report it to their local officers. Whilst these offences can be very difficult to investigate police understand how upsetting they are and will robustly follow any lines of inquiry.
“Dog owners can take reasonable security measures to prevent thefts like checking privacy settings on social media before sharing pictures of your pet online, as this can attract the attention of some criminals. The Blue Cross website has a wide range of advice on how to prevent theft of dogs and steps to take if this happens.
“I also want to encourage those who are buying dogs to really consider where the pet has come from and ensure that it is being purchased legally. Advice can be found online on the checks you should make before purchasing a new dog or puppy.”
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said:
“Losing a much loved family pet can cause great distress and it’s a sad fact that criminals will seek to profit by this vile crime.
“We are taking action to cut crime by bolstering the police with 20,000 extra officers and our £20 million Safer Streets Fund will provide Police and Crime Commissioners with additional cash to spend on crimes such as theft.
“Let me be clear – pet theft is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment and it must be confronted wherever it occurs.”