- Gloucestershire’s new PCC, Chris Nelson has revealed his 5-point plan to tackle dog theft
- He’s backing the Neighbourhood Watch ‘Protect Your Pooch’ campaign and is urging people in Gloucestershire to do what they can to protect their pets
- Stroud’s Conservative MP, Siobhan Baillie has also stressed the importance of action against dog theft.
More than 27,000 people know someone in the UK who had a dog stolen last year.
That’s according to a dog theft-survey, run by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, alongside Sussex PCC, Katy Bourne. But, as lockdown saw a rise in the number of dog thefts both locally and nationally, Gloucestershire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner launched his own five-point plan, which he hopes will tackle the problem in the county.
In addition, Chris Nelson has added his support to a national ‘Protect Your Pooch’ campaign launched by Neighbourhood Watch in May 2021, which aims to educate dog owners on how best to keep their pets safe from thieves. The organisation has shared its tips to keep dogs ‘safe, in sight and searchable’.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Chris Nelson says the issue of dog theft is close to his heart: “My West Highland Terrier, Monty is a member of the family. It would be hugely traumatic for him to be cruelly taken away from us, something thousands of people have faced over the last year. This is why I’m not only supporting the neighbourhood watch ‘Protect Your Pooch’ campaign, but also have a five-point plan to address dog theft here in Gloucestershire.
“I’ll be working alongside local MPs to seek either a change in sentencing guidelines or a change in the law. The judicial system needs to recognise the emotional value of our pets.”
One of those MP’s is Stroud Conservative, Siobhan Baillie. Speaking of Chris’ plan, she said: “Pet theft is on the rise and owners need to listen to police advice and take steps to ensure they are not a victim. Losing a pet in such circumstances is heart-breaking because it is often the loss of a family member. Many people are absolutely traumatised by their much-loved animal being stolen.”
Chris Nelson’s five-step plan
- Securing better data from police forces that specifically records pet theft going forwards, rather than just ‘property’ theft, so that I can establish the true scale of the problem. This will take time to implement, so I will also conduct a public survey to identify how much pet theft has already taken place.
- Police resources should be deployed to catch the organised gangs targeting our pets, my promise of 300 new officers for Gloucestershire will help with this.
- Dog theft should be a priority within our Regional Organised Crime Units.
- Improve public awareness of how to reduce pet vulnerability to criminals.
- I will work with our local MPs to seek a change in sentencing guidelines to ensure our judicial system recognises the emotional and social value of our pets, so that tougher sentences can be applied in our courts. If that approach does not produce harsher penalties for pet theft, it may then be necessary to change the law.
Siobhan Baillie is Conservative MP for Stroud, and supports the PCC’s agenda: “Pet theft is on the rise and owners need to listen to police advice and take steps to ensure they are not a victim. Losing a pet in such circumstances is heart-breaking because it is often the loss of a family member. Many people are absolutely traumatised by their much-loved animal being stolen.”
Advice to keep your pets safe
To help keep your dog safe Neighbourhood Watch has pulled together some top tips on how to keep your dog SECURE, IN SIGHT AND SEARCHABLE and reduce your chances of becoming a victim of dog theft.
- Pets are easily stolen from a garden when left unattended, even if for just a few minutes. Front gardens are very vulnerable. Fit a bell or gate alarm to any rear or side gates; the gates should be secured with British Standard locks, locking bolts or closed shackle padlocks.
- Secure your garden boundary to prevent your dog from escaping or a thief from reaching in and taking your dog out.
- As well as a lock, consider fitting a bell or small alarm to outside kennels to warn you of any tampering.
- Be particularly careful of sharing or publicly posting on social media details of where you live, the type of dog you have and where you walk.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a car – especially on warm days – as it is not just dangerous for their health but allows them to be easily targeted by thieves.
- Leaving your dog alone outside a shop is another easy opportunity for a thief, even if you are only away for a minute.
- It’s important your dog will return when called; if it is not trained to do this, be very careful of allowing them off the lead, especially in unfamiliar areas. You may wish to keep them on an extending lead instead.
- Varying the times and routes you take when walking your dog.
- Be careful of strangers asking you a lot of questions when you are walking your dog – they could be distracting you to make it easy for them to steal your dog.
- If you need to use a dog walking service or kennels, make sure you check references carefully to ensure the offer is genuine or the company is trusted.
- Make sure your dog is microchipped and the details are correct on any of the recognised pet registration databases. Your dog must be microchipped by the time it is eight weeks old. For further information about the process and potential databases visit the UK government webpage on microchipping your dog.
- Fit your dog with a collar; the tag on the collar should have a contact number and your surname, not the name of the dog.
- Make sure you take pictures of your dog from various angles, especially if they have distinctive markings or features. A further photo of you with your dog can help to prove ownership. Taking photos of your dog in various conditions can also help, such as with a groomed coat or an untidy one.
There is more information about the Protect Your Pooch campaign at ourwatch.org.uk/protectyourpooch