Cheshire Police are reminding residents to take some simple steps to protect their pets.
The National Police Chiefs Council announced this week that there has been a “considerable rise” in the cost of a puppy over the pandemic although the demand is now changing as people return to more of a normal living pattern.
There has been an increase in public awareness of puppy thefts despite the national reports of the crime remaining low.
In Cheshire the reports of the crime in Cheshire reflect the national statistics that pet crime is currently low.
Chief Superintendent Gareth Wrigley said: “As the Force Lead for Pet Theft, I would like to draw attention to this concerning and emotional crime type.
“Nationally, Regionally and Locally we are proud to say that reports of crime are low but must be cognisant that one theft of a puppy or dog can lead to intense social media scrutiny.
“Please also keep an eye on your neighbourhood and report any suspicious activity to us so that we can make Cheshire a no-go area for dog thieves.”
There are a number of actions that pet owners can do to protect them from theft.
• When sharing pictures of your pets online, check social media privacy settings.
• Sellers of puppies also need to be aware of how they are advertising their puppies, as this can attract the attention of criminals looking to target sellers.
• Be aware and stay vigilant of strangers on your dog walks.
• Don’t ever give someone you don’t know personal information.
• Always be vigilant of anyone acting suspiciously or watching your dog.
• Avoid leaving your dog tied outside of a shop or other public spaces. If you have errands to run, leave your dog at home.
• Take care when using sitters and kennels. Conduct proper research, always check references and make sure you’re using a reputable company.
• Keep your dog safe at home. Thieves can take advantage of an unsupervised dog left out in the garden. Always make sure side gates are always locked and keep an eye on them.
• Never leave your dog alone in the car, as they could make a tempting target for a thief as well as risking overheating. Always take your dog with you, and if that’s not possible, then leave them at home.
The Blue Cross website has a wide range of advice on how to prevent theft of dogs and steps to take if this happens.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Acquisitive Crime, Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said:
“There is a huge emotional impact on families who have their much-loved pet stolen from them.
“During the pandemic we saw the cost of a puppy rise considerably although demand is now changing as we return to a more normal living pattern. This encouraged some opportunistic criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting people by stealing dogs for illegal breeding or resale.
“Public awareness of this offence has increased, although national reports of this crime remain low.
“We investigate every such crime reported to us and work with partners such as RSPCA to ensure criminals feel the full weight of the law.
“I would advise and encourage those buying a dog to seek advice online before they purchase their pet, making sure they check where it’s come from, and it’s being bought legally.
This helps reduce the ability of criminals to operate in this market. We would remind the public that rescue centres can often be a reliable and trusted source for those wishing to offer a home to a pet.