From Devon & Cornwall Police;
Devon & Cornwall Police have appointed a dedicated dog theft lead. Chief Inspector Rob Curtis has been assigned to help tackle this rising crime.
Dog theft stories circulating on social media and in the news has led to growing concern amongst owners both locally and nationally.
Chief Inspector Rob Curtis wants to reassure people that Devon & Cornwall Police take dog theft very seriously. He said: “The theft of a beloved pet causes major distress to the owners, and although dog theft is very rare, we want people to be aware and to take safe precautions to help protect their dogs from this crime”.
He urges all owners to visit their vet and have their pet microchipped with all contact details kept up to date in the event of moving home or changing a phone number. Inspector Curtis added: “Microchipping is not only a legal requirement but is essential in helping to return pets back to their rightful owners. We want to make sure that we can reunite any lost or stolen dogs back with their families as quickly as possible”.
At home make sure your garden is secure, try not to leave your dog outside unattended, be careful of bogus callers or displaying signs that say, ‘my poodle lives here’ and ideally install security lighting and CCTV outside your property, or if you cannot afford it, then simply display signs warning that you do. Don’t leave your dog unattended outside shops or in an insecure car, leave them at home instead.
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly said: “Earlier this year 17,452 people from the West of England police force areas responded to an Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ poll on dog theft. The vast majority supported tougher sentences for thieves and said they lived in fear of their pet being stolen.
“Pets are not just another possession like a mobile phone or a watch, that’s why I made it a manifesto pledge to tackle pet theft and am delighted by the good work that is going on in the Force and by the Government, to understand this problem and to deal with it through prevention and enforcement.
“Losing a beloved animal to thieves is truly devastating. I want our communities, police officers and our partners to be intolerant of all crime, including pet theft. Together we can ensure these criminals are fearful of being caught, and law-abiding residents need not fear becoming victims.”
There has been an increase in demand for dogs nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in inflated prices for puppies and dogs. Nationally, dog theft cases have increased by 170% between 2019 and 2020, but locally the figures are much lower with a 28% increase over the same period.
Devon and Cornwall Police recorded a total of 77 stolen dogs across the year 2020/21 and the ongoing emotional impact this has on victims and their families and the subsequent fear this creates in communities cannot be underestimated.
Devon & Cornwall Police now have 30 microchip scanners, some of which have been donated by Dog Lost to help reunite dogs with their families – another step by the Force towards helping tackle dog theft.
What to do if your dog goes missing
It’s important to establish if your dog has been stolen or has got lost. If your dog has gone missing from your garden, it usually won’t wander far. Check with your neighbours and ask them to check their gardens and garages. If you still cannot find your dog, check with the local dog warden, tell the microchip company your dog is missing and call local vets and rescue centres.
In the unlikely event that your dog is being stolen and someone is physically taking your dog from you, shout that your dog is being stolen and attract attention. If you can take photos or videos and report it to the police by calling 999. If there are any witnesses nearby, ask for their contact details and report your missing dog to the microchip company.
We would like to stress that this level of crime is very low in Devon and Cornwall, but we want to ensure that pet owners are aware of the precautions and safety measures that they can take to keep their dogs safe.
There is more information on our website that will give you more information and places to go for help: dc.police.uk/dogsafety