IT is estimated dog thefts have risen by 250% nationwide following increased demand during the pandemic.
With demand for a puppy far outweighing supply, criminal gangs have taken to swiping dogs from their owners now more than ever.
Hundreds of dog owners across the UK have been left in despair since having their pets stolen with many more reporting suspicious activity while walking their pooches.
With dog thefts hitting the headlines, it is not surprising that dog owners are more aware of potential risks to their dogs safety.
Calne Police say that they have received a number of reports of suspicious vehicles, chalk markings outside homes and dog walkers being stopped by people who are paying 'unwanted attention' to their pets.
However, it is worth knowing that to date, no dogs have been stolen in Calne or surrounding villages.
PCSO Mark Cook of the Calne Neighbourhood Police Team said: “I would like members of the public to be vigilant and aware of any suspicious vehicles or markings, and take the usual security precautions with their properties.
“As a dog owner myself I know dogs are our family members, and I full understand the concerns within the community, and how there has been an increase in speculation surrounding dog thefts in our area. I would like to reassure everyone that, to date, we have not had any confirmed reports of stolen pets in Calne. However, it’s always wise to ensure you are taking basic precautions to keep your dog safe.
“For example, ensure your dog is microchipped and their details are updated, and make sure you homes and gardens are secure at all times.
“Also, as with all suspicious activity, please report concerns to us immediately via 101 or 999.
“We are actively patrolling Calne and rural Villages in search for any suspicious persons or vehicles who could possibly be linked to dog thefts, and we will always aim to respond as quick as we can to any reports received.”
The government has said it is already an offence to steal a dog under the Theft Act 1968, with a maximum penalty of seven years.
But dogs are classed as property under the act, meaning criminals would be punished in the same way if they had stolen a laptop.
Calne Police have issued the following advice to protect your dog against theft :
* Think twice before leaving your dog tied up outside a shop
* Don’t leave your dog alone in the car, even for a few minutes
* Prevent your dog being stolen while out walking by varying your times of walks and routes
Whilst pedigree pets are at the greatest risk due to the cost of purchasing pedigree puppies, non-pedigree dogs can also be at risk as thieves wait for a reward to be offered.
Keeping your dog safe
* Think twice before leaving your dog tied up outside a shop. You will make them a vulnerable and tempting target for opportunist thieves.
* Don’t leave your dog alone in the car, even for a few minutes. Thieves can easily break into your car to steal your precious pet.
* Make sure your dog is microchipped and that you keep your contact details up-to-date, especially if you move house or change your telephone number. Dogs and puppies in the UK must be microchipped by eight weeks old, by law.
* Your dog should always wear a collar and ID tag with your name and address on it. This is a legal requirement when your dog is in a public place. A mobile number is also a good idea, but avoid putting your dog’s name on the disc.
* Take clear photographs of your dog from various angles, and update them regularly. Make a note of any distinguishing features.
* Have lots of photographs of yourself with your dog, to help you to prove ownership if needed. Train your dog to come back when called, and never let them off the lead if you are not sure they will come back to you. If in doubt, use an extending lead, especially if you are in an unfamiliar area where your dog may get lost more easily.
* Take care when choosing someone to care for your dog if you are going away from home or need a dog walker whilst you go to work. Use a reputable company or boarding kennels and check references for people who provide dog or house-sitting services.
* At home, make sure your garden is secure and fit a bell to the gate so you hear if anyone opens it
* Keep your dog in view in the garden, don’t just leave him outside unsupervised
* If you breed puppies for sale, take great care when inviting people in to view; ideally have someone else present and limit the numbers of people you allow in at a time. Show the puppies in one secure area.
* Decide who owns the dog in your household. Discuss who would own the dog in the event of bereavement or break up and draw up documentation to this effect. This may seem unnecessary, but pets can become the centre of ownership disputes in these circumstances.
Prevent your dog being stolen while out walking
* Beware of strangers asking you questions about your dog
* Vary your times of walks and routes; some dogs are actually targeted and snatched during walks
* Make arrangements with a friend or neighbour to walk in pairs or groups. There is always safety in numbers.
If the worst happens and your dog is stolen
* If your dog is lost or suspected stolen, it is important to act quickly
* Report the loss to police and your local council’s dog warden and any other relevant authorities.
* Visit places where dog walkers go such as local parks and public places and talk to people, asking them to keep an eye open for your dog
* If you believe your pet has been stolen, report it to the police and insist it is recorded as a theft and not a lost animal. Ask for a crime reference number.
* Report the loss/theft to the microchip database, this will ensure that if anyone tries to re-register the chip number, you will be informed
* Make posters and display them in areas local to your home and also in relevant places such as vets, local parks etc. The poster should include a clear photograph and details of the circumstances.
* Make sure local vets are aware in case someone takes your dog in for treatment
* Report the loss on as many as possible of the missing animals websites – there is no single national missing animals database, so you will have to place the same information on all of them to ensure a widespread appeal
* Contact local animal shelters and rescue charities and send them posters to display