Worry for dog owners as dognapping soars by 80% across Lancashire

Dognapping has soared by almost 80 per cent in the past two years in Lancashire, according to the latest police figures.
Staffies, French Bulldogs, Pugs and Jack Russells are most likely to be snatchedStaffies, French Bulldogs, Pugs and Jack Russells are most likely to be snatched
Staffies, French Bulldogs, Pugs and Jack Russells are most likely to be snatched

The shock rise has put the county in the top four for dog thefts in the UK, with illegal puppy breeding and the trade in designer pets offering criminals an increasingly lucrative living.

Last year 116 dogs were reported stolen in Lancashire - a 78 per cent increase from 2015.

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But last night the numbers were described as “only the tip of the iceberg” by a volunteer network which helps owners search for their missing pooches.

“We think it’s a lot more than that,” said Jayne Hayes from DogLost UK. “The figures only refer to those owners who have been able to get a crime number. There are a lot who haven’t.”

Sadly only one in four of stolen dogs in Lancashire is recovered, leaving most distraught owners to wonder what became of their beloved pet.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are the most popular target for the thieves in the county, with the breed making up around one in five of all the dogs taken. But fashionable French Bulldogs come second in the most wanted breeds table, followed by Chihuahuas, Jack Russells, Pugs and Labradors.

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Figures produced by Lancashire Police following a Freedom of Information request by The Insurance Emporium, show a total of 286 dogs were stolen in the county between 2015 and 2017.

The FOI reveals 65 were taken in 2015, a further 105 in 2016, rising to 116 last year.

More than 50 of the 286 total were Staffies, making it around four times more popular for thieves than any other single breed.

But with thousands more going unrecorded across the UK, the problem is now said to have reached epidemic proportions.

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A petition has been launched nationally to get a change in the law, making pet theft a separate crime in its own right. It has already topped 25,000 signatures.

“At the moment it’s treated the same as stealing a mobile phone,” said Jayne. “You are likely to get a caution or maybe 10 hours community service.

“People are not getting punished sufficiently and so they think it’s a great way to make money.

“You don’t have to wait more than half an hour outside a newsagents before you see a dog tied up while the owner goes in. They wouldn’t leave their handbag outside, yet they leave their dog which is worth a lot more. It’s not the police’s fault, it’s the sentencing. We want to see the theft of a pet treated much more seriously by the courts than the theft of a phone. The effect on a family of losing a pet can be devastating.”

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According to the Lancashire statistics the most popular time for dognapping is the period building up to Christmas - November in particular. The fewest thefts come in January and February.

Most of the stolen animals are taken from inside houses - 103 of the 286 between 2015 and 2017. The garden is the second most popular location, with 90 thefts. There were only four stolen from kennels, seven from sheds or outbuildings and seven from vehicles.

While websites like DogLost.co.uk are successful in repatriating some pets, sadly most stolen dogs in Lancashire are never recovered.

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In 2015 just 17 of the 65 were returned to their owners, the following year it was 22 from 105 and last year 33 of 116 were found.

Wayne May, from DogLost UK urged all owners who fear their dogs have been stolen to contact the police and have the crime registered.

“The figures are higher than the offical ones,” he said. “There are organised criminals targeting sepcific breeds because the monetary value of some have risen significantly.”