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David Sidwick’s blog on dog theft

As the proud owner of a cockapoo pup, I understand perfectly why people are so concerned about dog theft.

When you take a dog into your home, it becomes a member of the family. To a young child a dog is a treasured friend, and to an older person experiencing loneliness and isolation, it can be a lifeline of support.

The lockdowns we’ve gone through over the last year have seen people across the country become increasingly desperate for the companionship that a dog provides. This has pushed up demand and sadly therefore made these beloved animals a target for callous criminals who care about nothing but profit.

Some have turned to breeding puppies without a licence, which they brazenly sell for thousands of pounds on well-known websites. Others have been snatching them from the streets to breed or sell them.

I know from my own post bag that pet theft is something the people of Dorset care a lot about.

Stories about dogs being stolen have been reported in national newspapers and circulated on social media, leading to widespread concern.

I’d like to reassure members of the public that the number of pet thefts in Dorset is really quite low. The Force recorded 26 cases in the whole of 2020, and only four between 1 January and 31 March this year – however even four is too many and would have been greatly distressing for those dog owners.

Nationally, cases rose by 170% last year and the fear of a dog being stolen is very real.

I have made my feelings clear on this matter and will continue to campaign both regionally and nationally for stiffer sentencing for this crime. Locally we are already working on an action plan to deal with this problem, but an important part of the solution is improving people’s awareness about how to reduce our pets’ vulnerability.

So, I’m very glad to see the Force has launched a campaign to issue crime prevention advice to dog owners.

The campaign urges dog owners to have three important things at the front of their minds.

  • Firstly, never leave your dog unattended. No matter how tempting it is, when you go into the shop don’t leave the dog tied up outside.
  • Make certain that wherever your dog lives, it’s secure so nobody is able to just lean over the fence and pinch it. Take a close look at your home and garden boundaries. Make sure gates and entrances are locked, kennels aren’t visible from the street, and if possible make your fence harder to climb by adding a trellis.
  • And make sure that whenever your dog’s out in public, it’s got a collar and lead on, including a tag. Whatever you do, don’t put your dog’s name on the tag – just your name and a contact number.

There are other things you can do and the Force has got more information here. Having your dog neutered will mean it’s less likely to be stolen for breeding. Microchipping is not only a legal requirement, it means your dog will be much easier to track down if it is stolen. And if you can, varying where you walk your dog – and what time of the day you do it – can also help.

a dog at Corfe Castle

This is important advice which will help dog lovers prevent their beloved animals being stolen, but there is more work we can do.              

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Sue Hillier and Elizabeth Porcher from the dog section, who came along to my office with Loxley – a beautiful springer spaniel pup who is about to be trained to become a police sniffer dog. 

They told me about the important work they’re doing, as well as about some of the exciting plans they’ve got in the pipeline.

They gave me some great examples of working more closely with other organisations, such as the councils who are responsible for licensing puppy breeders – and prosecuting unlicensed ones – as well as the RSPCA who deal with animal cruelty matters.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking to Dorset Police further about what they’re doing to ensure our pets are safe, and what other actions they can take to prevent dog thefts.

I look forward to updating you shortly about the outcome of these conversations.

But, in the meantime, please do everything you can to keep your pets safe.

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