More than 250 dogs have been stolen in Leeds in two years – and 96% of them were never found again.
Only 34 dognapping cases have resulted in an arrest in Leeds, meaning almost 9 out of 10 dognappers get away with it.
A spokesman for the Dogs Trust said the charity is “extremely concerned” about the number of dogs that go missing in Leeds after the information was revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request made to West Yorkshire Police.
Lee Paris, Dogs Trust Senior Campaigns Officer said: “We are extremely concerned about the growing number of dogs that are being stolen. Sadly around 2,000 dogs are stolen each year and every time a dog is stolen, a family is left devastated.
“A dog isn’t just a pet, they’re a big part of the family and it is a horrendous situation for any dog lover to find themselves in.”
A total of 251 dogs were stolen in Leeds between January 2017 and December 2018.
Of those, only 10 were found and 34 arrests were made.
Only in two of the cases that resulted in an arrest being made were the dogs recovered.
Not a single stolen dog was reported as found by police or its owner in 2018.
The Dog’s Trust has called for tougher sentencing for dog thieves as well as issuing advice to pet owners.
Mr Paris added: “We would urge all owners to be vigilant and to do everything they can to keep their dog safe from thieves when they are at home or out and about.
“Shockingly, 70 per cent of reported dog thefts are from the home or garden so we would encourage owners to check regularly to make sure their house and property boundaries are secure and never leave their dog unsupervised in the garden.
“We would also advise that no dog is ever left unattended in a public place, for example tied up outside a shop or in a car on their own, even if it’s just for a minute.
“We believe existing sentencing does nothing to act as a deterrent to thieves. Currently, dogs are treated like any other form of property and, as such, paltry fines are mostly given.
“We want the Sentencing Council to recognise dogs as part of the family and acknowledge the emotional impact of dog theft. Linked to this, we want an increase in sentencing so, at the bare minimum, a community order or prison sentence is given, not a fine.”
Across West Yorkshire, 383 dogs have been reported as stolen – with just six per cent of dogs found.
Across the region, 20 per cent of dognappings resulted in an arrest, meaning that in four out of five cases there is no arrest made.
Dr Samantha Gaines, head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department, said: “It’s heartbreaking for people when the pets they love like members of their family are stolen, the theft of any pet is absolutely heartbreaking and we would urge owners to follow some simple steps to deter theft.
“Putting in place a few measures can help prevent your pet from being stolen or becoming a target.
“Ensuring pets are wearing collars with up-to-date ID tags and having dogs/cats microchipped can help in the battle against pet-nappers, don’t leave your dog outside a shop on his own or in a car alone and check your garden to make sure it is secure and if you have a gate then fit with a lock.”
If a pet is stolen, the RSPCA advises owners should register them with a company such as Petslocated, Dogslost or the National Pets register, contact the police, call the micro-chip company and to call the RSPCA, other animal welfare organisations and their local vets.
Dr Gaines added: “On the whole, the RSPCA believes that compulsory microchipping, which will be a legal requirement as of April 2016 in England and Wales, is a step in the right direction and if implemented effectively could lead to significant benefits to dog owners and their dogs, for example reuniting them more quickly if they become lost or stray.
“The RSPCA would still prefer to see such a scheme built upon into an annual registration scheme to provide the funding for the public sector to have the resources to enforce dog-related legislation and tackle irresponsible dog ownership more effectively. However, we welcome this first step.”
In response to the FOI data, West Yorkshire Police acknowledged the distress having a dog stolen has on families.
A WYP spokesperson said: “We acknowledge the distressing impact having a dog stolen has for the owner/s and take all reports of theft extremely seriously.
“We continue to work with householders and businesses to offer crime prevention advice.
“Prevention advice can include making sure your garden is secure so no-one can enter without your knowledge and to make sure your home security is good if your dog is left at home.
“Dog owners are reminded to make sure their pets’ microchip details are up to date, meaning they can be reunited with their families if they are found after being lost or stolen. It is worth noting in some cases the dog is recovered at a later date and police is not informed.”
Please sign the #PetTheftReform petition if you would like pet theft to be a criminal offence:- https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/244530