Warning to owners after more than 80% of stolen dogs never found, new West Yorkshire Police figures show
More than 80 per cent of stolen dogs in West Yorkshire are never found, according to the latest police figures.
Data obtained from a Freedom of Information request to West Yorkshire Police (WYP) showed that 150 dogs were recorded as stolen from the county between January 2020 and February 2021.
Of those stolen, just 28 dogs were found, with 81.3 per cent of dogs not recovered.
This means a total of 122 dogs were not found by the police.
Two arrests were made in relation to the reports of dog theft - just 1.3 per cent of all recorded cases.
Both arrests occurred related to reports in January 2021.
One person who was arrested was summoned to court.
Animal welfare charity, Dogs Trust, expressed concerns that the demand for puppies during the last year in lockdown has led to a rise in dog thefts.
It added that that current sentencing does “very little” to deter thieves.
A spokesperson for Dogs Trust, said: “Given the high demand for dogs in the last year and the increase in prices, it is no wonder dog theft is on the increase.
“Many dogs are taken from homes and gardens every year so we would urge all dog owners to make sure their gardens are secure along with their homes and ideally never leave your dog alone in the garden.
“We would also advise that owners should never leave their dog unattended when out and about, always keep them in sight and also make sure they are trained to come back to you, however distracted they might be.
“All dogs must now be microchipped. Having your dog microchipped, and keeping your contact details up to date, gives owners the best chance of having their dog returned to them if the worst happens.
“Current sentencing does very little to deter thieves and does not take into consideration how devastating it can be to have your dog taken from you.
“Punishment for dog theft is determined by the monetary value of the dog, meaning perpetrators are often given fines which do not reflect the emotional impact of dog theft on the families involved.
“We fully support any action to introduce tougher sentences that will act as a deterrent for those committing these crimes. At the very least, a community order or custodial sentence being given, rather than a fine."
Jennifer White, the Senior Media Officer for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) added that thieves know that purebred and designer dogs sell for high sums and that they “don't give a damn” about the emotional bonds between pooches and their guardians.
She said that as "dognapping is an alarming, growing epidemic", it is imperative to contact the police as well as local animal shelters and veterinarians immediately if a dog is stolen - along putting up posters and involving the media.
Jennifer said: "Nearly every week, reports of the kidnapping of dogs – from back gardens, from their homes, or even while they’re out for a walk – hit the headlines. “Dognapping” is an alarming, growing epidemic.
"Thieves know that “purebred” and “designer” dogs sell for high sums, and they don’t give a damn about the emotional bonds between the animals and their guardians.
"To help keep animals safe, it’s vital that everyone microchip their animal companions, keep that information up to date, and maintain a watchful eye on their animals, acting swiftly if one goes missing.
"If the worst happens, it’s imperative to contact the police as well as local animal shelters and veterinarians immediately, put up posters, and even get the media involved.
"Those who pay for puppies from breeders or online – rather than looking to legitimate rescue groups and animal shelters – contribute to problems like theft and fuel the greedy pet trade, denying animals in shelters the chance to find love and security.
"By adopting, you can save a homeless animal’s life – and help take price tags off other dogs’ heads."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given his backing to a pet theft taskforce to tackle anyone who is “malicious” enough to steal a dog.
Mr Johnson said that while some people may think a surge in dog thefts during the pandemic as just a “second order” offence, it actually can cause “huge pain and grief to the victims”.
In an article in the Mail on Sunday, he wrote: “At present this crime is far too often dismissed as relatively trivial – on a par, say, with shoplifting.
Mr Johnson added: “If you are cynical and nasty enough to steal a dog, in an organised gang, then you will almost certainly be party to other types of crime as well.
“This is a fight that can be won.”
The data obtained in the Freedom of Information request relates to crimes relating to theft of dogs, January 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021.
Four recorded reports included multiple animals being stolen.
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “West Yorkshire Police acknowledge that a stolen pet can be a very distressing matter for the owner.
“In some cases the pet is recovered at a later date and the police are not informed therefore records are not updated.”