Shropshire warning as dogs stolen to order
Dog thefts have soared in Shropshire over the past three years – with many of the animals stolen to order, new police figures reveal today.
A total of 180 have been reported stolen, but that figure is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Staffordshire bull terriers, Jack Russells, chihuahuas, labradors and springer spaniels were among the most popular breeds taken, according to reports made to West Mercia Police between 2014 and 2016.
Gardens, homes and kennels were among the top dog-napping hotspots and just 53 dogs were recovered over the three-year period.
Many are being stolen to order, amid warnings that gangs are targeting certain breeds and touring the region looking for suitable dogs to steal.
Today's figures show 87 dogs were reported as stolen to West Mercia Police last year – more than double the number from 2014.
There were 55 dogs stolen in 2015, and 38 in 2014.
Dog Theft Action, a UK charity which helps victims, said criminals were targeting the animals for profit, illegal fighting purposes or for breeding.
On some occasions, thieves are hanging on to the dogs and then handing them back in return for reward money.
Nicola Barlow, chairwoman of the charity, whose own dog was stolen from her Midlands home in 2002, said: "When my house was burgled and they stole my dog, dog thefts were basically unheard of. It's now widespread.
"You get the designer dogs, the kind you see with celebrities, they are sold on very easily.
"They are wanted as fashion accessories.
"They can be worth £1,000 but are offered for as little as £100 or £200, which people should view as suspicious.
"Some dogs are stolen for dog-baiting – every dog owner's worst nightmare – or they are stolen to be working dogs, or used for blackmail.
"We get calls from all over the country on a daily basis. It is just constant."
The figures, released today by West Mercia Police following a Freedom of Information request, also show that on some occasions more than one dog was stolen.
The 180 stolen dogs accounted for 130 crimes being investigated by the force over the three years.
Among victims targeted were kennels near Cleobury Mortimer where an adult dog along with five puppies were taken. The theft happened in December and only one dog has been recovered.
Daniel Butler, spokesman for West Mercia Police, said although the number of thefts appear to be rising across the Shropshire area, it could be attributed to a change in the way the force records crimes as well as an increased awareness of dog thefts.
He said: "We know having a much-loved family pet go missing or stolen can be very distressing for owners.
"We would encourage people to take the necessary steps to help prevent this from happening.
"This includes micro-chipping, making sure gardens are secure and when necessary, keeping your dog on the lead."