Photo by Mark Dosher
Brian Milligan (Dog Warden/DTA Advisor), Margaret Nawrockyi and Nikki Powditch (DTA Co-ordinators), Neil Ewart (DTA Chairman), Eric Martley MP, Chair of APGAW, Nick Mays (OUR DOGS Chief Reporter & DTA Advisor), Allen Parton (DTA Advisor) and Endall (foreground)
THE GROWTH of dog theft was on the agenda when representatives from the anti-dog theft organisation Dog Theft Action visited the House of Commons last month 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, and 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 opened her power point presentation saying: ‘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.’
Margaret continued that it was apparent that there was a ‘missing link’ - something that could draw together all the efforts that are being made by diverse agencies that have an involvement in dog theft, in order to expose dog theft as a growing crime.
Margaret added that an alarming number of dog thefts involve 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.’
She went on to explain that DTA’s mission is to act as a catalyst - inviting all those people and agencies who could offer their knowledge and skill to join together and perhaps persuade others among their associates to participate in an unprecedented united front, which would include:
l asking the Government to enforce the existing laws, & the judiciary for more appropriate penalties to deter thieves,
the police to be pro-active where possible - to recover stolen dogs and to investigate the perpetrators
the vets for help in detecting dogs that have been stolen and sold on or passed on to new owners
l local authorities to check road casualties meticulously wherever possible for permanent ID and allow time for owners to discover their pets’ fate
the welfare and rescue staff to meticulously scan all dogs including those gifted for re-homing
the many search websites – set up to offer concrete help to those searching for dogs
the public – dog lovers every where who can provide a unique service by being aware of dogs stolen from their locality and offering information when possible – either to the Local Authority dog warden or to the police
Identification was a key factor, Margaret explained. ‘DTA fully endorses the concept of permanent ID. We believe it is essential given the current situation and our hearts go out to those owners whose dogs were stolen before they were microchipped or tattooed.’
When Margaret’s presentation was finished, Eric Martlew invited discussion and questions from those present at the meeting. One of the main areas to be discussed at length was the call for a national database of missing and stolen dogs to which all agencies, including individual missing dog registries, can contribute. 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.
Michael Willis MP queried how such a system would operate and whether it would be a ‘routine system’. Phil Buckley for the KC and Nick Mays for the DTA pointed out that the planned database would be opened out so that agencies could glean and also share information and that this system would not in any way compromise the data held on individual missing dog registries.
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. Nick Mays for DTA responded that this was encouraging, but that it was very much a ‘postcode lottery’ as to whether a local police force would treat dog crime seriously.
Although Alistair Lawson of ACPO was sympathetic, he pointed out that police forces had to prioritise crime, especially given the current security climate and that with the best will in the world, it wasn’t always possible to treat dog crime as a priority.
There was discussion on the related Jester’s Law campaign for scanning animals killed on roads and strong support shown by many areas of the Highways Agency.
Eric Martlew thanked all present for their attendance and for contributing to the discussion, saying that he hoped people would share their thoughts and information with each other and help to combat this distressing crime.