North West has highest rates for dog thefts in UK but less than 1% lead to criminal charge

  • Video report by ITV Granada correspondent Tim Scott

More dogs are stolen in the North West than anywhere else in the UK, new figures have revealed.

Data gathered by The Kennel Club shows 335 dogs were stolen in the region in 2020, accounting for 14% of all dog thefts nationwide.

However, less than 1% of dog theft crimes in the North West led to criminal charges in 2020 and in over a quarter of cases, a suspect was never identified.

Even when a suspect was identified, the authorities could not always take action. In almost a tenth of cases, "evidential difficulties" got in the way.

The coronavirus pandemic is believed to have fueled a rise in thefts, with demand for dogs and puppies by those stuck at home at an all time high.

Rosie the Labrador has not been seen since December.

Rosie the Labrador was taken from Elaine Hardy's back garden in Salford in December 2020.

Elaine had let her beloved pet into the back garden for no more than 10 minutes, but when she returned Rosie was gone.

She said: "It can be very difficult to stay positive after seven months, and the heartbreak, but we have to believe she will come home one day."

In the weeks that followed Elaine searched frantically and used social media to try and track Rosie down, but to no avail.

Star was taken from Samantha's home in January.

Samantha Hatton's Beagle, Star, was stolen from her home in Rochdale in January.

She says she did "everything she possibly could" to find Star, and has now had to accept she may never see her again.

But, she says there is not a day goes by where she does not look for her pet, scrolling rescue shelter websites as well as online sales constantly

Both women believe more needs to be done to deter thieves from stealing dogs.

Elaine says: "There's no deterrent, there's nothing there to stop people from stealing the animals because there's no consequence to what they are doing."

The Kennel Club are urging more transparent recording of pet theft on a central database, so that underlying causes can be tackled.

They also want the emotional value of dogs to be recognised in sentencing.

Thieves are currently only sentenced according to the monetary value of a pet which means it is often treated in the same way as stealing a laptop or mobile phone.

Bill Lambert from The Kennel Club said: "A dog is a member of your family, it has a huge emotional value.

"I've spoken to people who have had pets stolen and they've said to me they'd much rather have their car stolen, their diamond ring or Rolex watch far more than their dog.

"It's that not knowing what's happened to it."

Bill Lambert is the Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club.

The National Police Chiefs Council said: "Dog theft can be a devastating crime for families and cause considerable distress to owners.

"Whilst it is still a very rare crime, it's sadly something we have seen increasing recently.

"Whilst these offences can be very difficult to investigate, police understand how upsetting they are and will robustly follow any lines of inquiry."

Gamal Fahbulleh and Mel Barham spoke to Wayne May from the charity DogLost, who send thousands of volunteers out looking for stolen dogs every day. They asked about the affect this crime has on owners.