Don’t carry weapons to fight off dognappers, warn police – as survey reveals four in five Britons now fear walking their pets amid spike in animal thefts across Britain
- Dog thieves have targeted owners in their homes, gardens and even on walks
- Survey shows 79 per cent of dog owners are more fearful of walking their pets
- Some breeds are fetching up to £4,000 each- four times the pre-pandemic price
One dog, three-year-old sprocker spaniel Ted, was taken in December while being walked in South London
Police have warned animal lovers against carrying weapons to fight off dognappers as a survey reveals eight in ten owners are growing more fearful of taking their pets for a walk.
Demand for dogs during the Covid-19 crisis has triggered a reported 170 per cent rise in thefts across the country in the past year, with some breeds fetching up to £4,000 each – four times their pre-pandemic price.
A stolen dog can be used to produce litters that earn breeders tens of thousands of pounds. Thieves, including organised gangs, have targeted owners in their homes, gardens or even during walks.
Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to crack down on the ‘absolutely shocking’ rise in pet thefts. Even officials at the Queen’s rural retreat at Sandringham in Norfolk have issued warnings to dog walkers about the threat.
Now a survey of 124,729 people by the country’s Police and Crime Commissioners has revealed 79 per cent of dog owners are more fearful of walking their pets during the day.
Victims include retired policeman Mike Jasper, 66, who was assaulted by two men who took his three-year-old sprocker spaniel Ted in December while walking in South London.
In January, student Allie Knight, 22, received two black eyes after being punched as two men tried to steal her pet pug Paddy in Plymouth.
South Yorkshire Police issued an appeal over an armed robbery in Sheffield two weeks ago in which three dogs were stolen at gunpoint by four men.
And last week, North Yorkshire officers warned owners ‘must not carry weapons on our streets’ after social media users vowed to arm themselves in the wake of an attack.
The force said: ‘Not only do you run the risk of seriously injuring yourself or others, but it is against the law.’
In January, student Allie Knight, 22, received two black eyes after being punched as two men tried to steal her pet pug Paddy in Plymouth
Paddy the pug is pictured above. A survey of 124,729 people by the country’s Police and Crime Commissioners has revealed 79 per cent of dog owners are more fearful of walking their pets during the day
The PCC poll revealed 22 per cent of respondents had had their dog stolen or knew someone who had in the past year. Some 87 per cent said the theft of a pet should not be defined as stolen property, as it is in law.
Dozens of owners report having dogs stolen daily on social media and to groups such as the volunteer service DogLost.
Civil servant Marina Pettigrew, 57, had her one-year-old Maltipoo Nala taken last month from a dog walker’s van in High Barnet, North London, with two other dogs later found in Kent.
John Moore, a gamekeeper for a shoot on land in County Durham where 1950s Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden grew up, had his dogs Spook, a three-year-old Patterdale terrier, and Izzy, a three-year-old springer spaniel, stolen from his garden a month ago.
Mr Moore, 74, whose wife died of cancer last year, said: ‘It feels like I’ve lost a leg – I can hardly sleep. I’m broken by this.’
Only one in 100 dog thefts leads to court action, according to the group Pet Theft Reform, which wants to make stealing pets a specific crime. Most prosecutions result in a fine despite the offence carrying a maximum seven-year jail term.
Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, who launched the survey, said: ‘We need to start listening to people’s concerns and record data accurately. At the moment, we don’t have that because dog thefts are not categorised separately.’
Justine Quirk, of DogLost, which said theft reports went up from 172 in 2019 to 465 in 2020, added: ‘We are not only dealing with opportunists that will steal a dog outside a shop but, more frighteningly, a more organised element of thieves. It feels no place is safe for dogs.’
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse called it a ‘vile crime’, adding: ‘Losing a much-loved pet can cause great distress.’
Stars’ pooches to join ‘Zoom’ rally over thefts
Pet-mad celebrities like comedians David Walliams and Ricky Gervais are backing a campaign to combat the UK’s dog theft crisis. David Walliams is pictured with his beloved border terriers Bert and Ernie
Pet-mad celebrities like comedians David Walliams and Ricky Gervais are backing a campaign to combat the UK’s dog theft crisis.
Dogs and their owners are planning to stage the world’s largest online ‘DogZoom’ rally today to raise awareness about the growing problem of pet snatching.
Other stars supporting them include Sara Cox and Clare Balding, as well as former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, ex-leader of the Conservative Party.
The rally, organised with Stolen And Missing Pets Alliance and DogLost, will kick off Pet Theft Awareness Week, aimed at highlighting the crimewave in the hope the Government will toughen measures to protect pets.
The online event is due to start on Facebook and Twitter at 6pm, with a video fronted by animal lover Gervais.
He will say: ‘Thousands of dogs every year are being stolen from gardens and parks and the crime is treated the same as if that person stole a possession like a bag or phone.’
Rally organiser Liz Webster said: ‘Boris Johnson promised to solve Britain’s dog theft epidemic back in 2007 but nothing has changed.’
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