As concerns about dog theft soar following the surge in pandemic puppy buying, the Kennel Club says new research shows ‘a shocking failure to tackle a crime that is devastating 196 families every month’ – with only 2% of cases resulting in a conviction.
The statistics, gathered by the Kennel Club through Freedom of Information requests to the 45 police forces in the UK, to which 36 responded, show there were an estimated 2,355 cases of dog theft last year, a 7% increase on 2019 (2,199). This amounts to more than 196 dogs being stolen every month.
Based on the 27 police forces that provided data for dog theft case outcomes in 2020, only two per cent of all dog theft cases in the UK led to a suspect being charged – and these were almost entirely brought in by the Metropolitan Police and Cheshire Constabulary.
In 2020, no suspect was identified in more than half (54%) of reported dog theft cases and three per cent of cases were dismissed as not being in the public interest. In more than a quarter (27%), a suspect was identified but nothing further was done due to ‘evidential difficulties’.
The statistics are revealed 79 days after the Government’s Pet Theft Taskforce was established to help tackle the issue – in which time another 508 dogs have been stolen. The Kennel Club is urging more transparent recording of pet theft on a central database, so that underlying causes of dog theft can be tackled, and for the emotional value of dogs to be recognised in sentencing.
“Dog theft has devastating consequences for both the owners and the pets involved and it is quite frankly jaw dropping that 98% of cases never result in a criminal charge, and in more than half no suspect is ever identified,” said Bill Lambert, from the Kennel Club.
“Not only that, but when a suspect is found and sentenced, dog theft is often treated no more seriously than a petty crime, despite the fact that there is nothing ‘petty’ about pet theft.
“While thankfully most people will never be unfortunate enough to fall victim to this crime, those that do are left totally bereft but without a clear route to justice. We welcome the Government taking this issue seriously and hope that the Taskforce can deliver meaningful change in England and Wales; giving greater transparency in how we report and record this crime, and delivering more proportionate sentences that treat dog theft with the seriousness it deserves. This is needed across the UK – from the Scottish Government and Northern Irish Executive too.”
Among the actions being called for as part of the Kennel Club’s ‘Paw and Order: Dog Theft Reform’ campaign is for more resources to be allocated to this crime and for more transparent, centralised collection of data about pet theft, including the number of crimes, arrests and convictions. Currently, there is no central record in order to help decision-makers understand the scale of the problem or the circumstances around it – for example, whether a theft was driven by opportunism or organised crime.
The Kennel Club is also calling for a reclassification of how dog theft is treated in the law, as currently sentences place undue weighting on the monetary value of the pet rather than giving sufficient weight to the emotional impact of the crime. This means it is often treated in the same way as the theft of a laptop or mobile phone, rather than as a category one offence, which carries a maximum of seven years in prison in England and Wales.
To join the ‘Paw and Order: Dog Theft Reform’ campaign in calling for pet theft provisions to be revised to take into account a dog’s role within their family and the devastation caused by the crime, The Kennel Club has produced a downloadable template letter to help the public to raise their concerns with their MP and spur Government to change the law.
The template letter, advice on preventing dog theft and further information on the campaign is available at thekennelclub.org.uk/dogtheft