Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karen Bartlett

Dogs for drugs. Chilling words for any animal lover, and in Britain few things are as close to our hearts as our pets.

New research by animal charities seems to suggest dog theft is dramatically on the rise, sometimes committed by addicts seeking to fund their habit, and an Early Day Motion has been put before Parliament to express one MP's concern about the lack of a co-ordinated strategy to tackle the problem.

Despite occasionally trading in canine insults Westminster is as puppy loving as the rest of the nation, and more than 60 MPs have signed up in support.

More than a quarter of all households own dogs, so any measure to allay fears might seem a huge vote winner.

But the Home Office has been slow to respond. There are no national statistics on dog theft, nor, they say, are any plans underway for a nationwide policy.

Incidents of dognapping are included in the general crime figures under the category of theft, making it hard to see how widespread the problem is. Many local police forces have yet to take the problem seriously, but those that do report a surge in numbers.

Dog Theft Action, a support and campaign group, claims that 10 ransom notes are sent to owners every month.

Some people are prepared to pay thousands of pounds to get their pet back, but according to the RSPCA less than half the dogs that go missing are ever recovered.

The sudden surprising rise in this crime falls into two categories.

As one policeman pointed out, most criminals are opportunistic and adaptable. No one would tie their handbag to a piece of string and leave it on a bench while they went shopping. Why do it with your dog? Dogs are easily stolen from parks, back gardens and even cars.

This type of snatch and grab operation takes place alongside a growing number of organised dog stealing rings.

Staffordshire bull terriers, Labradors and lurchers are apparently the number one targets for thieves, and a crime that used to happen mainly in towns has now spread to rural areas. …

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