Dog thefts hit seven-year high with more than 2,700 snatched last year

Higher demand for dogs during the Covid pandemic led to hundreds more thefts

Lamiat Sabin
Thursday 28 April 2022 01:01
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<p>French bulldogs are one of the most popular breeds of dogs targeted by thieves </p>

French bulldogs are one of the most popular breeds of dogs targeted by thieves

Dog thefts have reached a seven-year high in the UK, new data shows.

About 2,760 dogs were stolen last year, the equivalent of nearly eight dogs every day. This total figure is 321 more than in 2020 and 611 more than in 2019.

The total figure for 2021 represents a rise of 16 per cent since 2015, according to the statistics revealed under the Freedom of Information Act and compiled by Direct Line Pet Insurance.

The most targeted breeds – taken from places such as gardens, parks, and cars – are French bulldogs, Jack Russell terriers, chihuahuas and pugs.

The highest number of dog thefts took place in London, with 422 reported to the Metropolitan Police in 2021.

West Yorkshire had the second-highest number of dog thefts, with 199 reports to West Yorkshire Police last year – a number two thirds more than the 2020 figure for the region.

Police received 182 reports of stolen dogs in Kent, an area that saw the third-highest number of such crimes. Regions with the fourth and fifth-highest numbers of dog thefts were Lancashire and South Yorkshire.

During the coronavirus pandemic, about four million people got a new dog while living under lockdown restrictions – which led to dognappers resorting to stealing pets to profit from the increased demand.

Due to the rise in reported dog thefts dring lockdown, the government announced in November 2021 its plans to sentence the thieves to up to five years in prison.

The government said it will add the new criminal offence to the Kept Animals Bill.

“It’s devastating to see the number of dogs stolen continues to increase across the country,” said Madeline Pike, a veterinary nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance.

“Unfortunately, the increase in dog ownership since the pandemic began and the subsequent rise in prices of these animals seems to make the crime even more appealing to thieves.

“The law will soon recognise dogs as members of the family with feelings, not just owned property and we hope that this will deter criminals, especially if they can be punished more severely if prosecuted.

“Anyone considering buying a dog should thoroughly check its provenance and see the dog with its mother, to ensure they're not buying from a criminal organisation.

“And taking simple precautions such as not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop, left inside an empty car or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted.

“It’s also vital to keep microchipping contact details up to date in case your dog does go missing and is handed in.”

The independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers said that the higher demand during the pandemic “resulted in a price surge on many breeds, making them more susceptible to theft.”

Dogs should be microchipped, and the keepers of the microchip database – as well as the police – should be notified immediately if the pet gets stolen, the charity said.

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