How to keep you and your pets safe following spike in dog thefts

  • Dog owners Sian Saunders and Sara Howells-Davies are calling for more to be done to deter thieves

Dog theft has risen by 170% in the past 12 months, according to the charity Dogs Lost. Pet owners like Sian Saunders said it is a crime that "destroys families".

More than 230,000 people have signed a petition calling on the UK Government to make dog theft a specific criminal offence.

Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would look at introducing tougher measures to deter criminals from stealing pets.

RSPCA Cymru and Welsh police forces are offering advice to pet owners on how they can protect themselves and their animals.

RSPCA Inspector Keith Hogben said because of increased demand during the pandemic, there are "not a lot of dogs you can legally buy at the moment".

Prices of certain breeds have increased to between £2,000 and £3,000. Cavapoos, Cockerpoos and Cocker Spaniels have seen some of the biggest increases.

Cocker Spaniels have seen the biggest price increase, says Pets4Home Credit: PA

Inspector Keith Hogben said: "It's massive issue at the moment, especially since Covid lockdowns have come into place.

"A lot of people are home on their own and want a companion. So we have seen significant numbers of dogs being stolen from gardens or people out walking their dogs and the dogs are sometimes never seen again."

Inspector Hogben has offered the following advice to owners to keep their pets safe:

  • Make sure your pets are microchipped and the details are up to date;

  • If you're walking your dog, it has to have a collar and tag on by law;

  • Note if the dog is neutered on its tag, because a lot of stolen dogs go into the breeding industry;

  • Make sure your dog is safe in your garden by securing padlocks on gates and having security lights up;

  • Use an extended lead when walking your dog if it is not good at coming back when called;

  • Take photos of your dog each time you go out on a walk so you have up-to-date photos of it in case it goes missing .

Pekingese puppy Vinnie was stolen from its owner's garden Credit: Sarah Howells-Davies

In a small minority of cases, thieves have asked owners to hand over their dogs at knife point.

South Wales Police is currently appealing for information on an attempted robbery of a dog owner in the Pentwyn area of Cardiff.

A 30-year-old man was walking his two dogs near the Rhymney River when three men, including one with a craft knife, tried to steal his eight-year-old Labrador.

Police said "as the man fought off the suspects, one of his dog poo bags split and the contents burst over one of the men who all fled empty handed.

"The victim who suffered facial injuries and concussion is now recovering at home with his two dogs who are also safe and well."

Chief Inspector Mark McSweeney from Dyfed Powys Police is leading an operation to tackle pet theft in the region.

He said it is important that dog owners remain vigilant and told ITV Cymru Wales: "First and foremost, you shouldn't actually arm yourself.

"The best and most simple advice is to walk in areas where you know other dog walkers are and carry a mobile phone."

Some thieves have been cutting out or attempting to remove dogs' microchips Credit: Sian Saunders

If you are looking to buy a dog, RSPCA Cymru has offered advice on how to avoid getting one that has been stolen:

  • Where possible, adopt a dog rather than buying one;

  • Go to a reputable seller who has all the paperwork;

  • Check the breeder is licensed and do some background research on them ;

  • Don't rush into anything.