Mark Randell is a retired Senior Detective who has now dedicated his time tackling animal abuse. Mark travels the world helping organisations deal with the horrors of animal abuse and finding ways to stop it. He is the founder of the charity Hidden-In-sight and today he writes in the Havering Daily.
2020 has seen an explosion in Pet Theft reports although exact figures are unknown. As a retired Senior Detective who used to have responsibility in deciding operational police activity based on crime analysis, I fully understand the value of accurate data.
There are 4 categories of Theft under the Home Office Counting Rules. This is done so that Police Forces can report on crime levels and performance.
The categories are, Theft from the Person, Bicycle Theft, Shoplifting and ‘Other Theft’. These thefts are then sub-divided and ‘Other Theft’ includes Dishonest Use of Electricity or Theft from a Machine. So ‘Pet Theft’ currently sits hidden from view under ‘HOC 49’ alongside anything else that doesn’t have a home, perhaps a stolen wheelbarrow.
It is no wonder then that the exact level of this crime explosion is unknown. Dr Dan Allen has run several petitions to change that and with each petition the issue has been raised in the House of Commons. Your MP, Andrew Rosindell, has spoken on the subject and in 2018 mentioned the Staffordshire Bull Terriers that he used to own, and how much of his family they were. That is exactly why the theft of a dog should be treated differently from the theft of a wheelbarrow.
Clever criminals don’t get caught. They understand weaknesses and exploit them. Even if a dog thief were to be caught the likelihood is a fine and at worst, a suspended sentence. With the rising cost of puppies this year, dogs have huge financial value. One website I just researched had nearly 2000 adverts for French Bulldogs (PLEASE don’t buy dogs online!) with values up to £3500. One litter of 6 puppies netting £21000. That’s extremely tempting for a thief. Even cross-bred dogs have now designer names and have high value. Add to that certain breeds that will be stolen by some dog fighters, and spaniels, Jack Russell terriers and Labradors being sold on and the market for stolen dogs is huge.
So, how do we stop the growth and ideally prevent thefts at all? Firstly, we need the best data and therefore there must be changes to recording. Then there should be cross Police Force cooperation, sharing crime data to analyse trends and locations. That can then be matched against intelligence as to who is responsible. Action then needs to be taken against them, with decent jail sentences handed out to those responsible. Their assets need to be seized for any money they have made from their crimes.
Pet thieves need to know they will be caught and dealt with.
As a pet owner, what can you do? There are around 14 microchip databases and not all vets scan when they treat a dog. One linked database and all vets scanning would be a start. Make sure your pet is microchipped and with up-to-date information. Don’t leave pets unattended outside shops or in large insecure gardens. Lock gates and install some security. CCTV cameras are relatively cheap. I installed extra solar lighting around the garden recently and it wasn’t expensive, and all this is nothing compared with the cost of a £3500 French Bulldog puppy. Make sure you have good photos and know any identifying marks and if you do post pictures online make sure you don’t share your location with them. Perhaps turn your ‘location services’ off on your mobile phone.
Report suspicious behaviour to the police; unknown vans returning to your area, unusual marks on gates, people out of context in an area. And keep asking the politicians to take this matter seriously. The new petition is here.
But don’t be afraid of crime, most dogs are not stolen. Just make it harder for the criminal and enjoy that special time with your pet. And have a Happy New Year.