Pet thefts estimated to have risen 250% since start of pandemic

Male Criminal Stealing Or Dognapping Puppy During Health Lockdown

Pet theft is on the rise - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Together we can crack down on callous pet thieves
I’ve talked in this column before about the rise in crimes and emergency services incidents related to Covid-19. But one crime I was concerned about before Covid, and which appears to have become a much more serious problem during the pandemic, is pet theft.

An increase in home working and furlough meaning people had more time on their hands meant that the last 11 months has been a great time for many to take the plunge and get a cat or dog.
Prices for puppies have sky-rocketed and stealing pets has become a far more lucrative activity. The charity DogLost reckons that this year has been the worst in three decades, with an estimated 250% increase in thefts since March 2020.
I think a pet is far more than a possession, but unfortunately that is how the law currently sees it and although the maximum sentence is seven years in prison, it drops to two years when the items stolen are valued at less than £500. The few criminals who have faced justice for these crimes have been, in my opinion, let off lightly.

For most pet owners a companion animal is far more than a possession like a watch or a TV. My cat Mylo is part of the family and I would be devastated if someone were to take him.
Because it is lucrative and the penalties for selling a stolen animal are so much lower than, say, dealing drugs, there is evidence that serious criminal enterprises have been drawn to dog theft.

People here in Devon and Cornwall have reported being followed by suspicious vehicles. Elsewhere animals recovered have been traumatised and sometimes are carrying injuries from attempts to remove the microchips which would identify a rightful owner.
I and a number of other Police and Crime Commissioners want to find out more about these crimes.
We have launched a survey which I hope will shine a light on the issue and encourage Parliament to consider whether the laws in this area can be strengthened.
If you have not yet had the chance to complete the survey please visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/dogtheft before 5pm on Friday, March 12. It only takes about a minute to complete.

In the meantime, if you do want to buy a pet beware of ‘too good to be true’ deals and seek out an established breeder with a track record in supplying healthy animals. Better still, contact one of the many wonderful rehoming centres in our part of the world and provide a forever home to an animal that might not have had the best start in life.
Ensure that the pet is microchipped and have a vet check for this. Suspicious activity should be reported to Devon and Cornwall police via the non emergency reporting system 101 (online Webchat via the force website will get the fastest response), or 999 if you suspect a theft is in progress.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter