Dog theft is on the rise for the fourth year in a row, according to new figures obtained by a leading pet charity.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Blue Cross to 38 UK police forces show dog theft crimes rose by a third in 2015 compared to 2014.
Many dogs taken from home
The FOI also asked for locations the dogs were stolen from and, despite many owners believing dogs are taken from a public place, such as outside a shop or while off lead in a park, the data reveals more than 70% were stolen from where they live, and almost half from within the home itself.
Main breeds stolen over the last two years have included small, fashionable French bulldogs, pugs, shih-tzus and Chihuahuas.
Most owners believe they are sold on for cash or used for breeding, while others believe they are being used as bait by gangs for illegal dog fighting – or for reward or ransom.
Almost 70% of owners think criminals who steal pets should face harsher penalties than those who steal property, such as a laptop of mobile phone.
8,000 calls a year
Blue Cross’s Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS) has been helping pet owners for more than 20 years with free, confidential support. Each year the charity receives more than 8,000 calls and emails from people who have lost a pet – some as the victim of pet theft.
Diane James, from the Blue Cross PBSS said: “We take many calls from owners who are missing their pet, including when a pet has been stolen.
“We offer support for those struggling to cope with the loss of their pet and give advice to help their children, who can be particularly upset and confused by the loss of their beloved family member.”