Dog thefts increased by 25% in 2021, according to new figures released today.
The data has been compiled by campaigner Dr Daniel Allen of Keele University and is based on replies to Freedom of Information requests received from 31 UK police forces. Accurate numbers are notoriously difficult to collect as police forces currently count pet theft as part of a larger category of “other thefts” rather than as a specific category.
The 25% figure has been released as part of The Stolen And Missing Pets Alliance’s (SAMPA) Dog Theft Awareness Day today (March 14) at the start of Pet Theft Awareness Week. It compares to a 3.5% increase in the number of reported dog thefts in 2020.
There are strong suspicions that organised crime gangs are increasingly becoming involved in pet theft because of perceived low risks and high rewards. Stolen animals can be kept, sold on, used to claim a ransom or reward, retained for breeding or, in extreme cases, dog fighting. According to SAMPA, 52% of dogs are stolen from gardens, 19% are stolen in house burglaries, 16% stolen while on a walk, 7% while tied up outside shops and 5% from cars.
Last year, the government set up a Pet Theft Taskforce to draft a new Kept Animal Bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament.
A key element of the bill is the creation of a new ‘dog abduction’ offence, which will give the Police more powers to act on dog theft and enable courts to deliver stronger custodial sentences for offenders. The proposed legislation does not cover other pets, and SAMPA is campaigning for the bill to be amended to include cats as well.