UK dog owners warned about thieves staking out parks and luring puppies | Crime

Tracking parks in affluent areas and luring puppies out of gardens with treats are among the methods dog thieves use, activists said, amid proposals the government is preparing to crack down on pet abductions.

Criminals raid dog walkers for their pets and raid animal shelters to steal sought-after breeds whose prices have skyrocketed during the pandemic. They also keep an eye out for uncastrated or neutered pets that are able to reproduce.

Thieves target “fashion breeds” and designer crossbreeds that are in high demand, including French Bulldogs, Pugs, Cockapoos, and Labradoodles.

The price of some puppies has quadrupled from £ 2,000 to £ 8,000 during the pandemic, and as responsible breeders slowed down operations, a black market has sprung up to fill the demand gap, activists said.

The government is reportedly considering a new animal abduction crime with its own range of penalties. Such cases are currently being prosecuted under the Theft Act. The move is reportedly backed by the Animal Theft Task Force that the government set up earlier this year.

Becky Thwaites, Public Affairs Director at Blue Cross, said, “A pet is not just a physical thing, it is a member of your family. Theft of a pet is extremely annoying and can be very traumatic to the owner. It is not knowing. If your pet is stolen, you don’t know who took it, where it is going, whether it will come back.

“Unfortunately, animal theft is not always taken seriously and that can make the impact worse as you report a crime to the police and they are treated essentially the same as if your laptop were stolen. That’s just not the reality when a pet is stolen. “

Thwaites said the pandemic caused a “perfect storm” in the market. “Many of us spend more time at home, so the demand for puppies has increased, the supply has decreased because responsible breeders don’t breed as much,” she said. “This lack of supply has led to an increase in the number of criminals in the industry and an increase in pet thefts.”

Thwaites said research showed a 170% increase in reported pet thefts between 2019 and 2020, but only 1% of dog theft crimes resulted in law enforcement.

Dogs are most often stolen from gardens or when left unattended in a park or outside a shop, Thwaites said.

However, there have been cases of thieves raiding parks in affluent areas in search of popular and more expensive breeds. Many simply put a loose dog on a leash and walk away, but some have used treats to entice them and a minority have used violence.

“We have unfortunately seen an increase in violent attacks,” said Thwaites. “They are much rarer. We don’t want to scare pet owners, but we see that this is on the rise. Anecdotally, there is an organized element. There’s theft to order. There are gangs that work together, not just individual opportunistic criminals. It’s a network that operates across the country. “

The Blue Cross has asked owners to ensure that their dogs are microchipped and that the microchip register is up to date. It also recommends varying dog walks, never leaving a dog unattended, and not posting identifying factors in pictures of pets on social media.

Assistant Police Chief Amanda Blakeman is the National Animal Theft Police Director and a member of the government’s Animal Theft Task Force. She encouraged people to buy puppies through reputable, accredited breeders and sellers.

“If you are considering buying a dog, make sure the organization is reputable, has checks and tests,” she said. “Don’t go to someone on a website you meet at a church service. Go to the home, insist on meeting the parents. “

Blakeman said there was ongoing talk of introducing a specific pet abduction crime. “I would say there is a really good intergovernmental agency out there,” she said.

She said it gives the impression that the police did not take the crime seriously in the past, but pet owners should be reassured. “For many people this is not just a piece of property, it is part of people’s lives, it contributes to the perception that it was not taken seriously. There is a real understanding of the issues and a response to protecting animal owners. ”

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