North West is nation’s dog theft capital

Shock new statistics show that the North West is the UK’s dog theft hotspot, with 14 per cent of all such crimes nationally happening in the region.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 3:56 pm
Puppies that were stolen from a farm in Bickershaw

Yet less than one per cent of dog theft crimes in the region led to criminal charges in 2020 and in over a quarter of cases, a suspect was never identified.

Freedom of Information statistics reveal 196 cases of dog theft every month nationally, up seven per cent on 2019.

Wigan has had more than its share of these crimes in recent years, including a litter of puppies stolen from a home in Worsley Mesnes by knife-wielding raiders five years ago and earlier this year seven Old English Bulldog puppies were stolen from Tammy McKenna and partner Paul, during a burglary at their home in Leigh.

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In both instances, happily, pups were recovered and in the case of the McKennas two people were later charged.

But these are exceptions. In 2016, a litter of six Jack Russell/Shih Tzu cross puppies were stolen in a brutal robbery from a farm in Bickershaw, with two other pets being kept at the address injured by the robbers during the raid.

One of the animals was so badly hurt as it tried to protect the puppies that it later died from its injuries.

Over 500 dogs estimated stolen across the UK since the Government’s Taskforce set up to tackle the issue in May, as the pandemic puppy surge led to growing dog theft fears

The Kennel Club’s Paw and Order: Dog Theft Reform campaign urges the Government’s new Pet Theft Taskforce to improve the reporting and recording of the crime and to treat dog theft with more proportionate sentences.

As concerns about dog theft soar following the surge in pandemic puppy buying, new research shows a shocking failure to tackle a crime that is devastating 196 families every month in the UK, with only two per cent of cases resulting in a criminal charge.

The statistics, gathered by The Kennel Club through Freedom of Information requests to the 45 police forces in the UK, to which 36 responded, show that there were an estimated 2,355 cases of dog theft in 2020, which is an seven per cent increase on 2019 (2,199).

This amounts to more than 196 dogs being stolen, to the heartbreak of their owners, every single month.

However, based on the 27 police forces that responded on dog theft outcomes in 2020, only two per cent of all dog theft cases in the UK led to a suspect being charged.

In the North West there were an estimated 335 dog thefts in 2020 – the highest in the UK – but only one suspect was charged.

No suspect was identified in over a quarter of these reported dog theft cases in the North West (28 per cent) and in nine per cent a suspect was identified but no action was taken, due to “evidential difficulties”

The statistics are revealed 79 days after the Government’s Pet Theft Taskforce was established on May 8) to help tackle the issue – in which time another 508 dogs have been stolen.

The Kennel Club is urging more transparent recording of pet theft on a central database, so that underlying causes of dog theft can be tackled and for the emotional value of dogs to be recognised in sentencing.

“Dog theft has devastating consequences for both the owners and the animals involved and it is quite frankly jaw dropping that 98 per cent of cases never result in a criminal charge and in more than half, no suspect is ever identified,” said Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club.

“Not only that but when a sentence is handed out it is often treated no more seriously than a petty crime, despite the fact that there is nothing ‘petty’ about pet theft.

“The low charge rates and the paltry sentences are an almost open invitation to criminals looking to target innocent dog owners.

“Whilst most people will never be unfortunate enough to fall victim to this crime, those that do are left totally bereft but without a clear route to justice.

“We welcome the Government taking this issue seriously and hope that the Taskforce can deliver meaningful change that will give greater transparency in how we report and record this crime, and deliver more proportionate sentences that treat dog theft with the seriousness it deserves.”