New figures have shown over 300 dogs to of been stolen over the past five years and expert organisation DogLost - dedicated to reuniting dogs with their missing owners – have warned that the figure could be much higher.
Research appears to show a shift in direction by organised criminals, as those who had previously sold stolen metal turn their attention to stealing dogs. Through a Freedom of Information Act obtained by South Yorkshire Police, it appears dogs are being stolen in a wide variety of circumstances such as house burglaries, car theft and as the result of street assaults.
Doncaster had the highest number of canine theft with 96 separate incidents occurring throughout the last year compared to 60 in Sheffield, 48 in Rotherham and 30 in Barnsley with some instances seeing six or seven dogs stolen at a time with many rare breeds then sold for hundreds of pounds.
However, spokesman Nik Oakley says the true picture is likely to be worse with dog theft often recorded as ‘theft of goods’ rather than with direct reference to the stealing of dogs. She said “DogLost’s figures show that the crime has increased by 24% in the last 3 years and that figure is likely to be higher for 2016.
“Our estimation is that one in three dogs that are reunited are done so in suspicious circumstances: recovered by the police or us, ‘reward’ paid, found straying miles from home or scanned later having been sold on. Originally it was opportunist theft and the dog would be sold on quickly to feed a habit. Now it is much more organised crime. There is evidence to suggest that when the selling of stolen metals became more difficult, then those people turned to dogs.
An increasing number of dogs are now being stolen for breeding, proving it to be a hugely profitable operation. She continues, “Thefts of multiple dogs - from kennels or litters - increase the return from a single crime. Fashionable designer breeds like pugs, miniature French bulldogs and Chihuahuas are at the top of the list, along with valuable gun dogs like Labradors, springer spaniels and cocker spaniels.”
South Yorkshire crime figures appear to show the theft of 14 cocker spaniels, 11 pugs, nine Labradors, eight French bulldogs, six springer spaniels and five Chihuahuas. Figures from the last four years don’t make for great reading either as we see a gradual increase in stolen dogs from 45 in 2012/13, 63 in 2014/15 and 68 in 2015/16. The most shocking incident to be reported came in the form of an assault which saw the subsequent theft of the victim’s dog. In addition to this, four incidents of dogs being taken from cars have been reported to police across South Yorkshire since April 2011.
Temp Sgt Matthew Duffy of South Yorkshire Police said, “We are aware there has been an increase in the number of reports of stolen dogs made to the police over the past five years and although there is no one specific reason for this increase, we are asking everyone who owns a dog to take extra steps in order to keep them safe. Based on the work we have done with partner agencies it has been acknowledged some high value dogs and rare breeds have been stolen for monetary gains and rewards, however, in some cases dogs have been lost or have strayed.
“When any report is made to us we crime all of these instances and based upon the information we receive a course of action will be taken and if there are any lines of enquiry these will always be investigated. Owners should ensure their home and garden is secure, avoid leaving dogs for long periods of time on their own, ensure dogs have been registered and chipped, and don’t leave dogs unattended in public places.”
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