Thieves have snatched hundreds of dogs from homes across the region, it has been revealed.
Chihuahuas, greyhounds and huskies were among the breeds targeted by thieves as West Yorkshire Police recorded a total of almost 400 thefts of pets since 2012.
New figures, revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, show that 105 dogs were reported stolen to police last year.
Out of the 388 cases during the past three years, just 50 dogs were reunited with their owners.
Pam Gosnay, a volunteer regional co-ordinator for charity Dog Lost, which covers West Yorkshire, said: “To some people their dog is their life and a part of their family, so when they’re stolen it’s absolutely devastating.
“Some owners can’t go on living once their dog is taken and their life is at a stand still because they’ve lost them.
“At one time you could leave your dog outside a shop, now you can’t do that, any dog can be stolen and it doesn’t matter what the breed is.
“Dog theft is a massive issue and it seems to be increasing.”
In 2013, 121 dogs were snatched in West Yorkshire and in 2012 the figure was 113.
Thieves have continued to target the animals this year and 44 canine thefts have been reported to the police so far.
Mrs Gosnay said thieves often target dogs for “quick cash” but the charity is concerned that many are being stolen to be used in dogfighting and baiting.
Baiting is where dogs are used in illegal fighting rings for practice or sport, to make other dogs stronger.
Mrs Gosnay said: “Some dogs are just dumped and found with serious injuries after what looks like they’ve been used in bating and fighting.
“Sometimes it’s opportunists who think they can steal them and get quick cash.
“Others are far more organised - it’s a growing problem.
“For owners, it’s not knowing what’s happened to their dog which is the worst part. Whether it is just stuck in a yard, not being cared for or harmed.”
New government legislation, due to be made law next year, will mean that all dogs have to be micro-chipped.
But Mrs Gosnay said there also needs to be legislation to force authorities to scan dogs which are found dead before they are destroyed to help give owners some kind of closure.
West Yorkshire Police have charged 22 people and secured 12 convictions in connection with the 388 cases of dog thefts since 2012.
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