Newly-released figures from Direct Line Pet Insurance reveal that South Yorkshire Police received 82 reports of dog theft in 2020, and 100 in 2021, equating to a year-on-year increase of 22 per cent.
This comes as research from the insurance firm shows that the number of dogs stolen in the UK has reached a seven-year peak.
Direct Line says that in 2021, the number of dogs stolen rose by 13 per cent across the UK to 2,760, the highest levels since they started analysing theft rates in 2015.
French Bulldogs were the most stolen breed in 2021 and saw a 29 per cent rise compared to the number stolen in 2020. Jack Russell’s came in second, with the number stolen last year more than doubling (140 per cent) compared to the year before. Other small dogs like Chihuahuas and Pugs were also popular targets.
Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance said: “It’s devastating to see the number of dogs stolen continues to increase across the country. Unfortunately, the increase in dog ownership since the pandemic began and the subsequent rise in prices of these animals seems to make the crime even more appealing to thieves. The law will soon recognise dogs as members of the family with feelings, not just owned property and we hope that this will deter criminals, especially if they can be punished more severely if prosecuted.
“Anyone considering buying a dog should thoroughly check its provenance and see the dog with its mother, to ensure they’re not buying from a criminal organisation. And taking simple precautions such as not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop, left inside an empty car or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted. It’s also vital to keep microchipping contact details up to date in case your dog does go missing and is handed in.”
Staffordshire Bull Terriers, which were last year’s most popular target for thieves, saw an 88 per cent reduction in 2021 pushing them down to seventh. Crossbreeds such as Cockerpoos and Puggles have also fallen in popularity, from second in 2020 to 10th in 2021.
Around 16 million people own a dog across the UK, 3.8 million of whom took ownership during the pandemic
South Yorkshire Police’s Force Lead for Serious Acquisitive Crime, DCI Jim Bateman, said: “While dog theft is rare, in the few circumstances where it does occur, we know it can be heart-breaking. For many, dogs are not just a pet, but a member of the family.
“As a force we continue to tackle this devastating crime by working closely with partner agencies and gathering intelligence which helps us uncover the activity of dog theft criminals. We also know that highlighting crime prevention advice among the dog owning community is hugely important and deters criminals from seeing their dog as a target in the first place.
“If you have information about dog theft which you think might help police, please report it by calling 101. Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to police, you can call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”