POLICE APATHY toward dog theft is exacerbating a problem that has reached 'epidemic' proportions, according to two leading dog recovery organisations. Jayne Hayes, founder of DogLost.co.uk, says her group has seen a fourfold increase in stolen dogs in 12 months.
She said the police "prefer to list dogs as missing, not stolen" and is now encouraging owners to go to their MPs if dissatisfied with the police, to which end she and other supporters have formed a lobbying group Dog Theft Action, as reported exclusively in OUR DOGS last week.
"The police are worried about a rise in their crime figures," said Ms Hayes. "Those figures would go through the roof if every stolen dog was given a crime number.
"Usually the owner has to threaten the police with a complaints form to be given a crime number and in most cases when they ring again they are told the case is closed."
Needless to say, the police refute any such accusation, despite numerous cases to the contrary, many of which have previously been reported by OUR DOGS.
Kaye Fitzgerald-Gorham of fellow dog recovery organisation Lurcher Search, said people who call on her organisation for help rarely have anything positive to say about police involvement.
"It's simply not true that the police investigate every dog theft; they are just too busy and there's too much paperwork involved."
Mrs Fitzgerald-Gorham said that it remains incumbent on owners to take responsibility for their dogs much more seriously.
"Get your dogs identified with both tattoos and chips and take precautions, like never leaving your dog outside a shop, or alone in an unlocked garden," she said.
"It would seem that the problem of dog theft is increasing, maybe due to the fact that people are now aware they can make money out of ransoming dogs, as well as stealing them purely because they want them. However, when they contact us at Lurcher Search to report a stolen dog, the normal reply to my question ‘Have you informed the Police?’ is ‘Yes, but they weren't very helpful!’
"It is unusual for dog owners to be offered any practical information or support. Although I am aware there are certain Police forces who cannot be faulted for their sympathy and co-operation, sadly the attitude of the majority seems to be ‘it's too much paperwork and it's only a dog.’
"I understand there is a possibility that the entire responsibility of missing dogs may be taken out of the Police's hands and given over entirely to Dog Wardens. If this does happen, I hope the Dog Wardens are given more powers to investigate dog thefts, otherwise there will be no-one in authority who can help these people - hence the need for Dog Theft Action, which is a clear step forward to making the authorities take dog theft seriously."
Following a meeting of the officers of Dog Theft Action and the article in OUR DOGS, the DTA have been approached by the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs home to discuss how to work closer together in reuniting dogs.
Jayne Hayes from DogLost commented: "After nearly two years working together with the smaller rescues and other missing dog sites including Lurcher Search, Greyhound Gap, Dog Rescue On Line, Petsearch, various breed rescues and many other volunteer groups, it is refreshing to have the ‘big boys’ taking an active interest and we look forward to working together to help unite more dogs and we especially look forward to the Police taking more of a lead in dog theft."
DTA are currently approaching various dog-loving MPs to become patrons of the group, and have already sounded out advisors in the dog media and legal profession. The Kennel Club has given the group a stand at this year’s Crufts to publicise their cause.
Phil Buckley of the Kennel Club Press Office said: ‘We were contacted by officials of Dog Theft Action to see if we could help them gain publicity at Crufts 2005, and we're very happy to accommodate them, as their cause is extremely worthy and if the Kennel Club can help with reuniting lost or stolen dogs with their understandably anxious owners, then we will of course do so.
‘DTA are also pro-microchipping and we envisage working with them on this important welfare issue, both at Crufts, and in the future.’
For details of Dog Theft
Action, please contact: www.dogtheftaction.co.uk