Over the last few weeks, I have been involved with many exiting initiatives – such as the new spirit of cooperation between my office and Gloucestershire’s County Council run Fire Service – but in this article I would like to highlight all the great work our Constabulary is doing to help protect Gloucestershire’s beloved pets, through a scheme known as ‘Doggy DNA’.
During my election campaign, I made a pledge that I wanted to take action to protect our pets from theft. Sentences of up to seven years are possible for pet theft, but after much research, I have struggled to find many convictions and even fewer where the penalty is a significant custodial sentence. Pet theft is too often a low-risk and high reward activity for organised crime – this has to change.
During the pandemic, reports of pet theft increased as more people became new pet owners. Since my election, I have been part of the National Taskforce, advising Ministers on how we can best reduce pet theft.
One way to take action is Gloucestershire’s new ‘Doggy DNA’ scheme: a world first.
While 92% of dogs are micro chipped, there are multiple databases storing owners’ information, with many details out of date.
Criminals can also cut out or wipe microchips clean electronically, replacing the rightful owner’s details with their own. The appearance of a stolen dog can also change markedly, due to abuse of one kind or another. Therefore, the Constabulary wanted to devise a better way of identifying any dog it retrieved from criminals.
Working with Cellmark (an accredited forensic company) the Force has helped to launch a product called DNA Protected, where owners take a simple mouth swab to collect DNA data from their pet. This is then stored in a national database which any police force can access.
As the initiative rolls out across the country, DNA swab packs (plus branded dog collars and leads to show that your dog is protected) will soon be available on our police engagement vehicles.
This should make it easier to help probe reported thefts; return stolen or lost pets to their owners; and increase the number of criminal prosecutions, sending a message to organised crime to keep their hands off our beloved family pets.