Dog thefts on the rise across the UK

MP calls for more action

homeless mixed breed dog...

More than 100 dogs are being stolen every month in the UK, Freedom of Information requests have revealed.

According to a BBC investigation, over 5,000 dogs have been reported stolen to police forces in England and Wales since the start of 2013. Thefts are up by 22% over the last two years, and there have been a reported 423 thefts in the first four months of this year alone.

According to the report, Nottinghamshire, Kent and Lincolnshire are the regions with the highest levels of dog theft, followed by West Yorkshire and Sussex.

Pedigree dogs, including Staffordshire bull terriers and toy breeds such as miniature French bulldogs and pugs, are most targeted, as they can be sold on in the UK or overseas.

The Blue Cross is calling for the government to take action.

"The effect of having your pet stolen can be absolutely devastating for owners. This is why we want the government to do more to deal with this increasing problem," says public affairs officer Becky Thwaites.

"Penalties need to be tougher for those committing these crimes to act as deterrent to others. We also believe that police forces need to ensure they deal with these cases in a sensitive manner and highlight where owners can go for further support."

Gemma Atkin-Brown, for example, lost 18-month-old miniature schnauzer Lola whilst staying with relatives in Fareham. Neighbours saw two men and a woman snatch her from a nearby doorstep.

"We're devastated by the loss of Lola and are desperate to get her back," says Gemma. "My son cries himself to sleep at night because he misses her so much and my disabled daughter can't understand why Lola has gone."

Part of the problem is that the penalties for dog theft can be very low. In law, pets are seen as items of property like any other.

"I am a dog owner and I know that although I probably wouldn't get more than a fiver for my scruffy mutt, it is the impact the theft of my dog would have on me that counts not the monetary loss and the sentencing guidelines need to better reflect this," Conservative MP Gareth Johnson writes in Politics Home.

"Dog theft can be heart breaking and more must be done to punish those who are convicted of this offence. Dog theft is rarely opportunistic and the emotional harm on victims can be substantial."

He is calling for changes to sentencing guidelines to recognise the emotional impact of losing a pet.

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