The DTA team outside the Houses of Parliament: L-R: Nick Mays, Advisor and OUR DOGS Chief Reporter, Co-ordinator Nikki Powditch, Chairman Neil Ewart, DTA Co-ordinator Margaret Nawrockyi
ON MONDAY evening this week, representatives from the anti-dog theft organisation Dog Theft Action were at the House of Commons, London, where they gave a presentation to the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, outlining the rise of dog theft in the UK and suggesting ways in which APGAW could us its powers to bring about action to tackle the problem.
Amongst the invited attendees were Phil Buckley, External Affairs Manager for the Kennel Club, Alistair Lawson of the Association of Chief Police Officers and Simon Ovens of the Metropolitan police dog unit. DTA were represented by Co-ordinators Margaret Nawrockyi and Nikki Powditch, Chairman Neil Ewart, Advisors Nick Mays (Chief Reporter) OUR DOGS), Allen Parton and Brian Milligan, Dog Warden. The meeting was chaired by Eric Martlew MP (Labour, Carlisle).
Margaret Nawrockyi said during the presentation: ‘The emotional and psychological consequences of dog theft are devastating but when combined with the inability to take any effective, official action to retrieve a beloved dog, the feeling is unbearable for the victims of this vicious crime.
‘It seems as though the authorities - to whom we should be able to report the theft of our property - have no mechanisms in place to deal with these reports and what’s more they have no plans to change the status quo. Dog theft largely goes unmonitored and the thieves continue their activities unencumbered by the law or by threat of retribution. To add insult to injury, many thieves hold dogs to ransom and only return them to their owners for exorbitant sums of money.
‘It was apparent to us as victims of dog theft, that there is a vacuum – a missing link - something that could draw together all the efforts that are being made by so many different agencies, in order to expose dog theft as a growing crime - that more and more frequently involves the use of violence. Reports of incidents of dog theft where knives and guns are used to terrify powerless owners into submission and of awful cruelty to the dogs themselves are all too frequently reported in the canine and national press.’
There followed a great deal of discussion, during which the lack of accurate statistics on dog crime as opposed to the grossly inflated and misleading figures quoted in some quarters were discussed. Simon Ovens pointed out that in London, a total of 359 dogs were reported as stolen in 2005 – and that this was a relatively small percentage out of the million dogs estimated to live in London. He was quick to point out that the Metropolitan police take dog theft very seriously and that every such theft is allocated an official crime number and is investigated.
The plans for a national database of missing and stolen dogs to which all agencies, including individual missing dog registries, can contribute was discussed at length. The case was made strongly for this database to be completely independent of individual missing dog registries and would be best run by the Kennel Club’s Petlog service, which has both the capacity and technology to run such a database effectively.
DTA summarised what they wanted APGAW to help with as follows:
• A national database – one central point to share or receive information about missing/stolen and found dogs
• All agencies giving a sympathetic response when approached by victims and giving information about the aforementioned National Database
• Scanning of dogs by vets – checking ownership prior to routine treatment
• Local Authorities to identify road casualties wherever possible and allow time for the bereaved owners of dogs killed on the road to discover their pets’ fate.
• Empathetic support from the police – not occasionally but constantly – recognising the part that dogs play in society.
• Representation from the legal profession so that proof of ownership can be challenged
• Responsible ownership so that fewer dogs are stolen in the first place
Margaret Nawrockyi concluded her presentation saying: ‘In short we need the country as a whole to acknowledge the symbiosis that millions of people enjoy with one particular animal that stretches as far back in time as we can possibly go. Our relationship with dogs isn’t repeated in any other partnership. Those of us, who enjoy the rewards that a canine companion offers, cannot fail to empathise with the victims of dog theft.’
* A full report of the DTA presentation to APGAW will appear in next week’s issue of OUR DOGS.