But campaigners say the penalties do not match the devastating impact the loss can have on their owners. Poll findings showed 78.4 percent of people asked said they had grown more fearful of taking their dog for a walk during the day, with 83 percent more fearful of taking their dog out at night. DogLost, a UK charity that helps victims of dog theft, recorded 465 pets reported stolen in 2020, up from 172 dogs in 2019.
At present, dog theft is not defined as a specific crime, with the animals classed as “property” under the Theft Act 1968.
Holly Morgan, 26, from Nottingham, had her pet snatched in August 2019, and faced sleepless nights worrying about him.
She said: “Having my dog stolen was definitely the worst, stressful and most heartbreaking situation I have ever had to go though in my life.”
Fortunately, with help from Facebook organisation Beauty’s Legacy, she was eventually reunited with her beloved Cocker Spaniel, Bud.
The dog was found 130 miles from home after being missing for 18 days. She said: “Even though I have my gorgeous boy back and my family is now whole again, I am still living every day in fear that it will happen again. Even more so now with lockdown.
“I won’t walk my dogs by myself, even in daylight, as I’m so petrified that they will be stolen from me.”
Investigating the issue, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne organised the online survey to gauge public opinion.
It received 124,729 responses with a big majority calling for stiffer sentences.
The report also found that 96.9 percent said dog theft is a serious problem and 22 percent knew someone who has had a dog stolen over the past year Ms Bourne added: “Police forces across the country need a ‘flag’ for reports of dog theft on their systems as, currently, it is extremely difficult to track this crime trend and put in place an appropriate police response. Pets are part of people’s family and the devastating emotional impact of this crime should no longer be overlooked.”
She added: “The Home Office has asked to discuss the findings and how we can develop measures that will protect people’s pets and boost public confidence.
“I will be exploring whether it is time to consider defining pet theft as a specific crime.”
Last month Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to look at measures to tackle “absolutely shocking” pet thefts and to “go after” the thieves who are profiting from the crime.
Nottinghamshire Police, meanwhile, is to employ a specialist officer to investigate dog thefts.
Bourne is dog theft crime The force’s deputy police and crime commissioner Emma Foody, said: “There is growing alarm – both locally and nationally – over the threat of dog theft.
“This has been fuelled by a number of distressing incidents which have eroded public confidence.”