Giving the public a voice on local policing issues was one, if not the most important reason that Police & Crime Commissioners were created in 2012, and it’s something I take exceedingly seriously.  How that voice is heard and how it’s communicated to the chief constable and his officers is an important question, perhaps best illustrated by a spate of recent crimes involving animals.

Many will be aware of the public outcry caused by the theft of dogs in the county. It’s a truly awful crime which can only be carried out by the most uncaring and callous members of the criminal fraternity.

The Gloucestershire Police has its core responsibilities, but as Commissioner I also set the Force priorities which reflect what the public wants locally.  Unique to Gloucestershire is the priority  ‘A Compassionate Approach’ to the welfare of animals. Whether that be domestic, wild or farm animals, our priority specifically makes the distinction between the theft of innate items like lawnmowers, and sentient creatures such as dogs – something the law still fails to recognise.

‘A Compassionate Approach’ is a priority because you told me it’s what you want and expect, in much the same way you expect our police to operate in an environmentally sustainable way.

So, if it’s a priority what difference does it make?  Before the recent spate of dog thefts, my office raised the alarm with the force because of trends seen elsewhere.  Within hours of being aware of the first theft I sought assurances that the force was fully investigating all aspects of these crimes, leaving no stone unturned.

As Commissioner I cannot stray into operational policing, that’s for the Chief Constable, but I can (and did) seek reassurances and answers to the many questions I thought you would be asking.

An ongoing criminal investigation limits what I can say, but over the weekend a man was arrested heading away from Cheltenham on the M6 with 30-40 malnourished puppies in his vehicle. While I don’t want to detract from the help of the public and the great police work that led to that arrest, I have no doubt having ‘A Compassionate Approach’ as a priority, and seeking reassurances from the police on behalf of the many thousands who took to Facebook, made a difference.

Nothing you, me or the police can do will diminish the suffering of these victims, save the safe return of their beloved dogs, and I know there is still far more to be done to protect animals from heartless criminals.

I assure you that work will continue.