Nottinghamshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Emma Foody is appealing for dog owners to keep a closer eye on their pets following a spate of thefts across the country.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council is warning criminals are exploiting the huge hike in prices and demand for puppies during the coronavirus restrictions.
Although the number of dog thefts reported in Nottinghamshire is relatively small, the Deputy PCC urged pet owners to be on their guard for criminals looking to take advantage of this new lucrative market.
The charity DogLost has seen reports of thefts rise by 170% in the past year from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 2020.
Mrs Foody said: “I’m a dog owner myself and cannot imagine the distress and devastation of losing a beloved pet to the clutches of criminals.
“Thankfully, dog thefts remain rare in Nottinghamshire but when they do happen, it causes a huge deal of pain and fear among the community. Where there is opportunity, there is crime and I would urge all dog owners to take extra security measures to protect their pet’s safety.
“Owners should ensure their pets are microchipped, for example, and to check their social media privacy settings before sharing photographs of pets or puppies online as this may attract unwanted attention from criminals.
“I would like to reassure the public these distressing incidents are taken seriously and robustly investigated. Anyone with information about suspected dog theft should contact police on 101. In an emergency or live incident, always dial 999.”
In a recent case in Manchester, the NPCC said three people were arrested after a member of the public spotted someone carrying seven English Bulldogs puppies into a property. Two 21-year-old men and a 20-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of burglary.
Similarly, 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. And in Cambridgeshire, two dogs were reunited with their owners after officers executed a warrant. Two men, in their 20s and 40s, were arrested.
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.”
She added: “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.”