The number of dogs stolen in the UK has risen for the fourth year in a row, according to new research.
Figures published by Direct Line Pet Insurance show there were 1,959 dogs stolen in 2018 - 80 more than in the previous year and the equivalent of around five every day.
The Staffordshire bull terrier was the most stolen breed in 2018, with 88 reported thefts over the year. This was followed by crossbreeds like Labradoodles and puggles (53) and Chihuahuas (52).
Breeds that have fallen in popularity amongst thieves include huskies, which have seen an 88 per cent reduction in thefts. Springer spaniels and rottweilers have also seen a decrease, with just five and one reported theft respectively.
“It is heart-breaking to see there are still so many dogs stolen each year and the numbers are continuing to rise. Dogs are a huge part of the family, so it causes real distress and trauma when they are stolen,” said Eva Sandstra-Bennett, head of pet insurance at Direct Line.
“Unfortunately, the popularity of designer dog breeds and flat faced dogs means they are highly desirable for thieves, as they are easily identifiable and can be sold on for thousands of pounds. Owners of these breeds should be particularly vigilant and aware of situations that make it easier for thieves. This can include leaving them locked in cars, tied up outside a shop or allowing them off the lead out of sight.”
The Metropolitan Police Service recorded the highest number of dog thefts in 2018 (304) - a 30 per cent increase on 2017. West Yorkshire Police (179) reported the second highest number of stolen dogs while Greater Manchester Police (161) was third.
The figures also show that the number of stolen dogs being returned to their owners is falling. Just 17 per cent of stolen dogs were returned to their owners in 2018, which is 25 per cent less than in 2017.
Eva continued: “Unfortunately, while the number of dogs stolen is rising, the number returned is also falling; meaning owners are increasingly unlikely to be reunited with their beloved pet. If the worst does happen and a dog is stolen, owners should report it to the police immediately and start spreading the word among their local community.
“Online communities are also vital, as is sharing photos of the pet on social media. Owners should also ensure that their pet is microchipped, and the contact details are up to date so if they are taken to a vet’s surgery, the vet will have the right ownership details.”