Dog theft: “jaw dropping” 98% of cases result in no charges

dog theft pet theft pet abduction

Only a tiny minority of dog theft cases reported across the UK in 2020 resulted in a criminal charge, according to statistics gathered by The Kennel Club through Freedom of Information requests to the 45 police forces in the country. 

With 36 police forces responding, the data shows “an estimated 2,355 cases of dog theft in 2020, which is a 7 per cent increase on 2019 (2,199)”. This amounts to almost 200 dogs being stolen every month.

“In 2020, no suspect was identified in more than half (54 per cent) of reported dog theft cases and three per cent of cases were dismissed as not being in the public interest,” the Kennel Club reports. “In more than a quarter (27 per cent), a suspect was identified but nothing further was done due to ‘evidential difficulties’.”

Only in two per cent of cases were any suspects charged at all – meaning that pet theft remains a highly attractive crime, with huge potential gains and no real deterrent. It is estimated that over 500 dogs were stolen across the UK since the Government’s Taskforce set up to tackle the issue of pet theft in May.

Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club, said, “Dog theft has devastating consequences for both the owners and the pets involved and it is quite frankly jaw dropping that 98 per cent of cases never result in a criminal charge, and in more than half no suspect is ever identified,” said.

“Not only that, but when a suspect is found and sentenced, dog theft is often treated no more seriously than a petty crime, despite the fact that there is nothing ‘petty’ about pet theft.”

By the end of this month, the Pet Theft Taskforce will report its findings for the Government to base any new policies on. 

The Kennel Club’s ‘Paw and Order: Dog Theft Reform’ campaign is calling for centralised data on pet theft and “more proportionate” sentences – as well as a reclassification of how dog theft is treated in the law, with dog theft currently being treated as theft of property. 

These requests are not new: the Pet Theft Reform campaign has been calling for years for pet theft to be classed as a crime of its own, with harsher punishments.  

By the end of this month, the Pet Theft Taskforce will report its findings for the Government to base any new policies on.

Checking for a microchip
Image by Dogs Trust.

Victoria Prentis – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – said, “In the autumn, following the recommendations of the taskforce, we will work on the legislative and non-legislative measures that can help to deal with pet theft.”

“Items that we are working on include stopping cash payments; creating a new pet theft offence or offences where necessary; and considering measures on the compulsory scanning of microchips.

“We need to use every available tool in our response to this.”


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