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Police report confirms increase in dog thefts

CONCLUSIVE PROOF that dog theft is a growing problem in the UK was revealed earlier this week in an official police report - and the breed most targeted for theft by criminals is the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The report by the Metropolitan Police was obtained by the BBC’s news service under the Freedom of Information Act. Entitled ‘The Use of Dogs in Crime’, it suggests that 74 per cent more dogs were stolen in the London area last year than in the previous year.

It also reports that more than half (56 per cent) of those stolen are Staffordshire Bull Terriers, with about 35 being taken, many as puppies, each month.

The report concludes that the cause of this rise in thefts – from 239 in 2004/05 to 417 in 2005/06 – needs to be investigated further.

The worst affected areas for dog theft in London are said to be the London boroughs of Croydon, Bromley, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth and Hackney.

The five most popular breeds targetted are Staffordshire Bull Terriers with 256 stolen (56%), Rottweilers – 23 stolen (5%), German Shepherds, 19 stolen (4%), Cocker Spaniels and Jack Russells, both with 11 stolen (2%).

Police suggest that the prevalence of Staffordshire Bull Terriers may be the result of such dogs being used ‘by criminals such as drug dealers or stolen property handlers to protect their criminal assets at various locations including homes, outbuildings, or cars’, and the report goes on to detail how dogs are used in criminal acts, either to intimidate or even attack victims.

The report – of which OUR DOGS has a copy - also reveals that there were 354 dangerous dog offences, where dogs have attacked people, between October 2005 and April 2006.

Some 122 of these offences (34 per cent) are believed to have involved Staffordshire Bull Terriers, although there is no conclusive evidence for this, as crossbreeds may also have been involved.

Meanwhile Staffordshire Bull Terrier owners have hit back at the police speculation in the report, saying that it smears the breed unfairly. Certainly the emphasis paid to Staffordshire Bull Terriers further muddies the waters in the current debate about the planned amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act and directly undermines assertions made by Superintendent Simon Ovens of the Metropolitan Police Dog Unit last month when he said that the police were not seeking to add any other breeds to the DDA and were seeking to move away from breed specific legislation.

However, the report is nine months old and was obviously compiled before the current furore over allegedly ‘dangerous’ breeds.

Anti-dog theft group Dog Theft Action said that it appreciated that the report does not exclusively deal with dog theft but added that it contains clear evidence from an official source – in this case the Metropolitan Police – that dog theft is on the increase. Although the figures quoted reflect the situation in the London area only, this surely supports the view and anecdotal evidence that dog theft has escalated nationally in recent years.

Margaret Nawrockyi, Secretary of Dog Theft Action said, ‘The top five breeds targeted by thieves in the London area come as no surprise to DTA as these are all popular family breeds - the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in particular. DTA welcomes the publication of these statistics by the BBC, even though it took an application under the Freedom of Information Act to produce them.

It is clearly possible for a police force to produce statistics relating to dog thefts so we would encourage other forces across the UK to consider this option. This will prove an invaluable tool in the ongoing fight against dog theft.’