As a direct result of receiving the NGO’s letter, asking for a national lead to look into the increase in dog thefts, the national rural crime lead based within Northumbria Police has been in touch with the NGO

The national lead for rural crime based within Northumbria Police has written to the NGO to confirm they are working in partnership with the national acquisitive crime team (OPAL) to look into reported increases in dog theft. 

As a direct result of receiving the NGO’s letter, as well as correspondence from other organisations, the national rural crime lead based within Northumbria Police entered into further discussions with Tim Weston at the NGO and other teams within the police. 

In February 2021, the NGO wrote to all Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales to call for a national intelligence register or officer to help tackle the apparent increase in dog theft that is happening nationwide. 

Over the past few weeks, it’s been confirmed that the police have looked into dog thefts and some research has been commissioned showing that across 33 forces, there was a 3.5% average increase in dog thefts from 2019 to 2020. This is an increase from 1452 offences in 2019 to 1504 offences in 2020.

Detective Superintendent Neil Austin, Head of OPAL which is the National Serious Organised Acquisitive Crime unit said: 

"We now know there has been a 3.5% rise in dog thefts across the country as a whole over the past year. Although there has been an overall rise, we know that the majority of these crimes are urban based with some areas reporting no thefts. I would always encourage dog owners to be cautious and would remind people who share pictures of their dogs and puppies on social media to check their privacy settings, and try to avoid using tags which show where they live.”

“There are links to organised crime and the increase in demand for pets during lockdown has resulted in a substantial increase in the price of dogs, some criminals will look to take advantage of this.

Superintendent Andy Huddleston on behalf of Northumbria Police who hold the National Police Chiefs Council lead for rural crime said: 

“Dog thefts are very emotive and although some areas of the country have seen rises in dog theft, the figures show that it’s not as it’s been portrayed across print and social media. This is no way dismisses what has happened and it is absolutely right for the NGO to raise it. 

“The real increase in dog thefts is very small, but we understand that if it’s your dog that has been stolen it’s very hard to think of this just as a small statistic. But, I would like to stress it’s still a rare thing to happen.”  

The rural crime lead at Northumbria Police started working with the OPAL team and have updated the NGO with news of what’s been happening over recent months:

  • OPAL is working with a number of police forces across the UK to share intelligence to target those involved in this criminality. They are the national point of contact that the NGO is calling for in its letter. 
  • An intelligence forum has been setup and most forces experiencing these thefts are part of this group.  
  • Police forces are investigating these crimes and a number of significant arrests have been made in recent months in relation to dog thefts.
  • OPAL are have also been working with the Home Office and DEFRA on these issues. 
  • OPAL@westmercia.pnn.police.uk will be shared with regional NGO chairs as a point of contact and they will look to put people in touch with their local forces dog theft lead if they have one.
  •  

Liam Bell, Chairman of the NGO, said:

 “It’s fantastic news that our campaign has had an impact on the police looking further into these crimes. Gamekeepers and farmers rely on working dogs to enable them to carry out their work and we will do anything we can to raise these issues where needed and spread the word to help reduce these crimes.”
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