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Dog thefts - survey aims to find out more. (Photo by Stainless Images on Unsplash

Dog theft worries prompt national crime survey

Dog owners in Essex are being urged by the county's police, fire and crime commissioner to take part in a national survey about dog thefts.

The survey has been launched as reports of dog thefts are on the rise, and it's designed to help understand public perception of dog theft, enforcement, and the prosecution of offenders.

The commissioner, Roger Hirst, said: "As a dog owner myself I fully appreciate how alarming this can be. It’s important that we find out what is really happening in Essex so we respond effectively, allay fears and offer people relevant advice, so they are more confident about what the picture is, what is happening in response and what they can do to be safer."

According to the charity DogLost UK, there were over 460 dog thefts in 2020, up from around 170 in 2019. Quoted in The Guardian, the charity's Justine Quirk said the pandemic had created a perfect storm for these sorts of crimes.

"Last March, due to lockdown, lots of people thought that this would be the best time to introduce a dog to the family. The demand grew really high, and some people bought them online without asking the diligent background questions you would usually asking when buying in person. When some people got wind at how expensive these dogs are, there was an increase of dog thefts by people who realised how valuable a commodity they are."

Quirk was reported as having two cockapoos that have increased in value since she first purchased them. “And now when I walk them both, they’re worth so much more now it’s like I have £6,000 attached to my wrist,” she told the newspaper.

Police have also warned dog owners to be careful about what they share on social media. In The Guardian report, Det Supt Neil Austin from the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s acquisitive crime unit said: "People share pictures of their dogs and puppies on social media and very often haven’t got their privacy settings set correctly, and they use tags which obviously show where you live which is something to be aware of."

According to research by DogLost, the most commonly stolen breeds were cocker spaniels and springer spaniels.

The survey, run by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, can be found here.

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