Liz Webster, Prospective Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon has launched a campaign to crack down on dog theft in Wiltshire amidst the worst ever year for dog thefts.
Criminals have taken advantage of an increase in demand for dogs caused by the coronavirus lockdowns this year.
With more people working from home and finding themselves with extra time, the demand for dogs has soared. Earlier this year, the Kennel Club reported a 168% increase in people searching for puppies for sale compared to 2019. The Kennel Club also reported that thefts have increased during lockdown. The Kennel Club want to make dog theft a specific crime and urge owners to micro-chip their dogs and take precautions like securing their property from thieves.
Organised crime groups have tried to capitalise on this increase. The charity DogLost found an increase in dog thefts of 65% between 23 March and 1 June during the first lockdown. Some of these animals are forced into puppy farming or into taking part in illegal dog fights.
Last month, Wiltshire Police issued a warning urging people to keep their dogs inside. This was after a gang in a 4×4 were spotted driving around Wiltshire looking as if they were attempting to steal pets.
Moreover, it is thought that thieves are leaving white chalk marks outside homes to indicate which houses have dogs worth stealing.
In the eyes of the law, stealing a family dog is viewed the same as stealing a bike or television. Liz Webster and the Wiltshire Lib Dems have joined the call for a National Registration Scheme and for pet theft to be a specific crime with a jail term.
Following in the footsteps of Gloucestershire Police Force, Liz has offered a 7-point plan to deter dog theft. Advice includes keeping an ID tag on your dog, securing gates, purchasing alarms and taking lots of photographs to prove ownership if a dog is stolen. More details can be found at at Liz’s “Protect our Pets”
Liz Webster urged the police to take this matter seriously:
“My heart breaks when I think about families whose dogs have been ripped away from them by criminals. The loss of any pet is devastating to owners, with the added trauma of not knowing what conditions the dog will end up in.
“We need a National Registration Scheme and for dog theft to be made a specific crime with a jail term. As it stands, the law sees the theft of beloved family dogs in the same light as stealing a bike or a microwave. The risk of small fines will not stop this type of organised crime.”
So, dog owners, be vigilant to protect your dogs and be vocal to support Liz’s campaign.