The number of dogs stolen in England and Wales in 2021 was the highest of any year on record, new research has found.

A Freedom of Information request by campaigning group Pet Theft Reform secured data from 31 police forces, which showed more than 1,800 recorded thefts, up over 25 per cent from the 1,500 witnessed in 2020. The figures were obtained to mark Pet Theft Awareness Day, which fell on March 14th.

Scotland’s figures appear to be even worse, with The Herald obtaining figures from Police Scotland showing that there were 88 dog thefts last year, a 42 per cent rise on the 62 recorded in 2020.

The seriousness of the issue has led to campaigns for dog theft to be made a specific crime. Conservative MPS Maurice Golden is campaigning for this in Scotland, while Pet Theft Reform wants to see such a law brought in everywhere in the UK. In November, the government announced plans to legislate for this as part of the Kept Animals Bill.

Alarming as the latest figures may be to dog owners, they may not even tell the full picture, as not every crime of this type is reported.

However, it should be enough to show owners why they should use microchip registry as a means of tracking their pet in the event of it being stolen, or indeed going missing for any other reason.

As well as seeking a change in the law to specifically criminalise dog theft, Pet Theft Reform is also an advocate of microchipping as a means of preventing theft and alleviating its consequences.

However, it also wants to see change in this area. It noted that there are 16 “Defra compliant” pet microchip databases across the UK. It believes there should be just one to make it easier to obtain data and trace lost pets.

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