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Concern as dog thefts in NI increase by 50% in just one year

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Across the UK, there were an estimated 2,355 cases of dog theft last year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Across the UK, there were an estimated 2,355 cases of dog theft last year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Across the UK, there were an estimated 2,355 cases of dog theft last year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Concerns have been raised after it emerged that the number of dog thefts in Northern Ireland increased by more than 50% last year.

A total of 41 dog thefts were recorded in 2020 – up from 27 in 2019, highlighting the impact of the 'pandemic puppy surge'.

Between 2015 and 2020, 265 dogs here were reported as stolen.

Across the UK, there were an estimated 2,355 cases of dog theft last year, amounting to 196 cases every month.

The figures were obtained by The Kennel Club organisation.

Back in May, the Government set up a taskforce to tackle the issue of dog theft, following a spike in cases. Since then, 508 dogs have been stolen.

The UK dog theft figures indicate that only around 2% of these cases last year led to a suspect being charged.

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Bill Lambert, health, welfare and breeder services executive at The Kennel Club, has called for more resources to be allocated to tackling these crimes and for more transparent, centralised collection of data about pet theft.

“Dog theft has devastating consequences for both the owners and the animals involved and it is quite frankly jaw dropping that 98% of cases never result in a criminal charge and in more than half, no suspect is ever identified,” he said.

“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 UK 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. It is our hope that the Northern Irish Executive will take urgent action on this issue, too.”

As part of its ‘Paw and Order: Dog Theft Reform’ campaign, The Kennel Club is also calling for a reclassification of how dog theft is treated in the law, as current sentencing provisions "place undue weighting on the monetary value of the pet rather than giving sufficient weight to the emotional impact of the crime".

"There are steps that people can take to help protect their dogs. A dog should never be left unsupervised, whether out and about or at home in the garden, and it should have a reliable recall, so that you can always see its whereabouts,” Mr Lambert added.

"It is important that all dogs are microchipped, and that their details are kept up to date with their microchip database, and that information about your dog, such as its price or address, isn’t shared with strangers.”


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