Gloucestershire Constabulary has become the first police force globally to use DNA to tackle dog thefts.
The scheme known as DNA Protected uses a DNA marker system that has been developed for forensic analysis to help investigate criminal cases involving the theft of dogs.
Storing a dog’s DNA profile on Cellmark’s forensic dog DNA database will make it easily accessible to police forces and could help ensure the dog’s safe return if it is lost or stolen.
Two important aspects in protecting pet dogs are awareness raising and crime prevention with DNA Protected being one of many precautions available to owners.
Temporary Chief Inspector Emma MacDonald said: “There has been a national rise in dog thefts since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and I am hopeful that this initiative will help to reassure owners and protect the dogs of Gloucestershire.
“Dog theft can have a massive impact on the owner and their families as dogs are often seen as family members and as a force we are committed to doing all that we can to prevent dog thefts from happening.
“All of our police dogs have been profiled and given new Velcro patches for their harnesses which shows our confidence in the scheme.”
Chris Allen, Gloucestershire Constabulary’s head of forensic services, said: “DNA is unique and a fact that has enabled Forensic Services to identify criminals for many years.
“With the application of the same processes used for human identification, the DNA Protected service promises a searchable database of canine DNA information.
“Gloucestershire Constabulary’s forensic services department is very proud to be part of this ground-breaking initiative and I am confident that DNA Protected will greatly assist police in reducing the heart-breaking crime of dog theft and reuniting pets with their owners in the future.”
Newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson recently revealed his five-point plan to tackle dog theft. He said: The increase in pet theft has become one of the most distasteful elements of lockdown as organised gangs become ever more ruthless. We have to adopt whatever means we can to stop this shocking trade and hopefully advances in science will help.
“Gloucestershire has been at the forefront of moves to recognise the status of all animals. I congratulate the Constabulary on leading the way in the introduction of DNA technology and I’m sure many other forces will follow its example.
“As a dog owner, I know how they are the focus of many families. Losing your pet at any time is heart-breaking but to do so in such a callous manner, without knowing what’s happened to them, must be unbearable and is why I fully support this innovative way of protecting our pets.”