Criminals exploiting huge increase in lockdown demand for puppies as dog thefts surge

Criminals are exploiting the huge increase in prices and demand for puppies over the Coronavirus restrictions with reports of dog theft rising by 170 per cent in the last year.

Rising demand for puppies during lockdown is prompting criminals to steal dogs for breeding, experts say.

Police are urging dog owners to take security measures to keep their pets safe after it was revealed reports of thefts have risen from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 in 2020.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Acquisitive Crime, Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said: “Dog theft can be a devastating crime for families and causes considerable distress to owners. Whilst it is still a very rare crime, it’s sadly something we have seen increasing recently.

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“During the Coronavirus pandemic criminals have adjusted their activities and are taking advantage of the big demand for pets over the lockdown period. The cost of a puppy has considerably increased over the past year making this a lucrative market for organised criminals to exploit.”

“Dog owners can also take reasonable security measures to prevent thefts like checking privacy settings on social media before sharing pictures of your pet online, as this can attract the attention of some criminals.”

Dog thefts rose across Yorkshire last year.

Humberside Police recorded 25 thefts of dogs between January and the end of July 2020, a rise from the 11 reported thefts in the same period last year.

South Yorkshire Police recorded 46 in the same period, up from 30 the previous year, while North Yorkshire dealt with 16 up from five.

West Yorkshire was the only force to see a drop in reported dog thefts during 2020.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: "Losing a much loved family pet can cause great distress and it’s a sad fact that criminals will seek to profit by this vile crime.

"We are taking action to cut crime by bolstering the police with 20,000 extra officers and our £20 million Safer Streets Fund will provide Police and Crime Commissioners with additional cash to spend on crimes such as theft.

"Let me be clear – pet theft is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment and it must be confronted wherever it occurs.”