A pet theft taskforce has been launched to investigate the recent reported rise in pet theft since the start of lockdown, the Government has announced.
Sales platforms have reported a huge rise in puppy and kitten prices over the course of the past year as more people deciding to buy or adopt a pet and recent reports suggest this may be leading to a rise in pet thefts.
According to DogsTrust, the price for five of the UK’s most sought after breeds grew significantly during the first lockdown with the price of some breeds rising by as much as 89 per cent.
Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increased by 166 per cent between March and August following the start of lockdown last year.
Recent police investigations into dog theft have also resulted in numerous raids and arrests on suspicion of theft and animal cruelty.
The new taskforce has been set up to gather evidence to understand the factors that may be contributing to any perceived rise in thefts and to recommend any necessary measures to tackle the problem.
The taskforce will be made up of government officials from Defra, Home Office and Ministry of Justice as well as operational partners such as the police. It will also seek input from animal welfare groups and experts in relevant fields.
The Pet Theft Taskforce will:
- work with police, law enforcement, and experts to understand and tackle pet theft
- consider the issue from end to end, including causes, prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution.
- make clear and timely recommendations on ways to reduce pet theft.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Pets are much loved members of the family, and these reports will be distressing for all pet owners.
“Pet owners shouldn’t live in fear so we’ve set up this Taskforce to thoroughly investigate the issue and ensure that we have the measures in place to stop these criminals in their tracks.”
Taskforce partner, Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said: “Dog theft is a very emotive issue which has a huge impact on families or individuals and we are aware of a growing concern around this issue. The taskforce will support us in understanding this risk and also identifying trends involving serious and organised crime.
“The taskforce will enable us to gather intelligence across the country and tackle groups who work across geographical boundaries. We hope that this is a step forward in providing reassurance that we are committed to understanding any risks fully, and challenging related criminal behaviour.”
Police have advised that dog owners should avoid leaving their pet unattended while out in public, vary their routines when walking their dogs and should take basic security steps at home such as checking locks on doors and garden gates.
The taskforce will include representatives from operational partners to provide knowledge, experience and guidance on the practical aspects of reducing pet theft. It will also seek the input from stakeholders and experts in relevant fields, such as campaign groups and animal welfare organisations to gather any evidence they may hold and seek their views on the issue.
The taskforce will aim to report on the findings and publish its recommendations in the autumn.