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Dog theft on the increase

OWNERS of pedigree dogs across the UK are living in fear of what appears to be an organised crime ring – or individual crime rings – stealing pedugree dogs to order or for ransom.

Although the police forces in various counties treat the thefts as random, isolated incidents, there is nothing random or isolated about the escalating number of thefts. The crime syndicate’s modus operandi is to make careful observations of the dogs they intend to steal – usually from dog owners who breed or exhibit their dogs regularly at shows and who, in many cases, live in isolated homes. Then the gang move in when the owners are not about and steal the dogs they require. The thieves then contact the distraught owners and demand a "ransom" – usually hundreds of pounds – for the dogs’ safe return. Sometimes the thieves are far more blatanat and simply steal the dog from the owner.

Only recently, a Hertfordshire woman was slashed with a knife when she tried to prevent thieves form seizing her dog whilst she was out walking it.

The situation has become worse in recent months and many animal charities and rescue organisations are urging dog owners to be on their guard. The BBC’s Crimewatch programme are highlighting dog theft in their edition due to be screened on May 28th.

Part of the problem is that police forces are reluctant to list dogs as stolen, preferring to enter all such criemjs as merely the dog being ‘lost’ or ‘going missing’. Two years ago, when investigating the problem of an organised dog stealing ring in southern England, OUR DOGS spoke to Kent police and asked them how many dog thefts they had listed in their area.

A spokesman for Kent police declined to make an official comment, but said that, having made enquiries at several Kent police stations said: "We do not have a problem with dog thefts in the area and I can find none listed." When challenged about the sheer number of thefts in the past three months, the spokesman repeated, "We do not have a problem that I am aware of."

Up to 80% of exhibitors in some breeds at dog shows have now taken advantage of a recent KC ruling which prevents them form having their address and telephone number details listed in show catalogues.

Next week, OUR DOGS will present an in-depth investigation into the growing problem of dog theft and will be asking the question: Should the authorities be doing more to protect our property?