A borough MP is demanding tougher penalties for those involved in stealing dogs to order.
Yvonne Fovargue was speaking out after figures obtained by Wigan Today revealed this illicit trade had led to almost 50 pet thefts in the borough over the space of three years.
Dogs ranging from shih-tzus and Yorkshire terriers to Alaskan malamutes, Staffordshire bull terriers and spaniels were snatched, the figures obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act show.
The Makerfield parliamentary representative also spoke of the distress having a beloved pet stolen causes owners and called for law changes to allow judges and magistrates to clamp down.
Ms Fovargue said: “Dog theft is a cruel crime which causes great distress to owners and their dogs. At the moment there is no specific crime of dog theft and so if it does reach court, a well-loved dog which is a family member is treated as property just like a TV or mobile phone.
“I will continue to call for tougher sentencing guidelines for dog theft in the hope the threat of tougher sanctions will act as a deterrent to criminals.”
I will continue to call for tougher sentencing guidelines for dog theft in the hope the threat of tougher sanction will act as a deterrent to criminalsYvonne Fovargue MP
The FOI results show there were 38 crimes involving 47 canines being taken between April 2013 and the end of March 2016.
However, just eight of these vanished four-legged friends were reunited with their owners by Greater Manchester Police (GMP).
There were 12 crimes involving dog theft in the borough in 2013-14, rising to 17 in 2014-15 and dropping again to nine in the following 12-month period.
Some of the most serious incidents include a raid which saw six shih-tzus snatched and another where two yorkie and shih-tzu cross breeds were taken.
Pets in Wigan have also been involved in horrifyingly violent crimes, including four Dogue de Bordeaux puppies taken in a robbery in which their owner was threatened with a meat cleaver and a machete.
National figures earlier this year showed only the Kent and West Yorkshire forces have dealt with more dog thefts than GMP between 2011-12 and 2015-16.
Insp Liz Sanderson from the Wigan East Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “GMP take reports of animal theft very seriously and every report is responded to. We understand that this crime like any other has an emotional impact on owners which is why we would urge members of the public to remain vigilant when with their pet, keep them on a lead and not to leave them unattended in place where there is a risk of them being stolen.
“Dog owners are also advised to ensure their pets have a collar with a name and contact details attached. If anybody sees anything suspicious or has information about dogs or any other animal being stolen then please contact us.”