Original article from Kent Live
Exclusive figures obtained from Kent Police show 117 reports of dogs being taken in 2020.
In total, 124 dogs were stolen last year.
That was up 17 per cent from 100 reports in 2019, and 103 dogs reported missing.
Campaigners are calling for dog theft to be made a specific crime – currently dogs are treated like any other stolen object, which means recording thefts can be patchy.
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The figures obtained by Teamdogs.co.uk following a Freedom of Information request show only 28 of the dogs stolen in 2020 were recorded as recovered.
Out of 571 reports in five years, 134 saw dogs recovered – although this information may not be fully recorded by the police force.
It was also rare for anyone to face consequences for stealing a dog.
Out of the 117 crimes recorded in Kent in 2020, 62 were closed with no suspect identified.
In the past five years, dog thefts have led to just 11 charges, one caution, and a community resolution, with difficulties with evidence stopping many of the other cases from proceeding.
Over the past five years, the dog most commonly reported stolen was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (46), followed by a Chihuahua (32), Cocker Spaniel (19), French Bulldog (19), and Labrador (19).
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Nationally, the heartbreaking figures suggest only one in four stolen dogs are ever recovered.
Only 23 per cent of 1,699 pets snatched in 2020 were reunited with their devastated owners, according to figures from all of the police forces that responded to the FOI.
And disturbingly only a fraction of cases led to someone facing justice, with just 48 crimes prosecuted – 3 per cent of the 1,492 crimes that had an outcome recorded.
French Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers were the most popular targets for twisted dog thieves.
Kent had the third most thefts in England and Wales
According to the results of the Freedom of Information requests sent to police forces across England and Wales, the regions with the highest dog thefts are London, West Yorkshire and Kent.
London had 235 thefts reported in 2020, followed by West Yorkshire with 121 and Kent with 117.
Meanwhile, Direct Line figures for stolen dogs estimated 2,438 dogs had been taken across the UK in 2020.
But dog campaigners fear the true horror of dog theft has yet to be revealed as the crime is listed by police in the same way as they would a stolen garden gnome.
They also believe dog theft is under-reported, as the public think police forces won't take it seriously and help them get their dog back.
Bruce Forsyth's eldest daughter Debbie Matthews has been campaigning for a change in the law, after her two terriers were stolen from her car in 2006.
“I was lucky. Because of my father I got them back. We did a live appeal on GMTV and both dogs had been sold on.”
Debbie, 65, added: “Dogs are priceless, irreplaceable members of our families and deserve to be treated with respect.
“We want dog theft made a specific crime in its own right. If they can do it for bicycles, they can do it for dogs!
“All the figures are desperately sad and just show you we need the Government to step in and help the public.
"It's got to another level now.
“We've all been talking about it for so long. People are afraid to walk with their dogs, afraid to talk about their dogs or share photographs of them.
“That shouldn't be, that's one of the joys we have.”
The numbers in detail
The 1,699 thefts of dogs in 2020 reported to the police forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland who responded to the FOI was very similar to the 1,707 reported in 2019.
The biggest increase in dog thefts have been seen in Northumberland (up 80 per cent to 97), South Yorkshire (up 71 per cent to 82), Cumbria (up 63 per cent to 31), and Devon and Cornwall (up 53 per cent to 61).
More than half of reported dog thefts (51 per cent) in 2020 were closed without a suspect being identified (756 out 1,492 with recorded outcomes)
Just 3 per cent of cases in 2020 led to someone facing consequences for their actions – 48 out of 1,492 that had an outcome recorded, with 39 leading to someone being charged, five community resolutions, two cautions, three penalty notices for disorder and one diversionary, educational or intervention activity.
The most common location for dog thefts, at 43 per cent, was from the home, with gardens coming second at 18 per cent.
Around one in 11 dogs (9 per cent) were stolen by someone the owner knew, including former partners, friends and people looking after their dog.
One in 12 dogs (8 per cent) were taken from a park or open space or from the street. In July last year, a dog was stolen in Merseyside by a delivery driver.
Former Detective Inspector, Mark Randell, from Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance, who has a background in crime analysis, is also campaigning for a change in the law.
He said: “Dog theft needs to be recorded as a specific crime by every police force.”
He said at the moment dog theft comes under 'theft other', which can include anything from wheelbarrows to a garden gnome.
“The first thing you need is the correct data so you can look at crime hotspots and can tackle it as one crime problem,” he said.
“At the moment we are relying on unreliable figures.
“If it is listed as a specific crime we can then look at crime hotspots and national trends.
“Quite clearly dog theft is a big issue and it is quite clearly under reported.
“Sometimes people don't report crimes because they don't think anything is going to be done about it.
“They don't think the police will help and until recently they probably haven't.”