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Gloucestershire Constabulary is reminding pet owners to keep their animals safe and secure following a nationwide spike in prices and demand for puppies.
One of the UK's largest online pet marketplaces has recorded a 51% increase in demand for puppies since the Coronavirus pandemic began while the average price of puppies and dogs has increased by 131%.
Reports of suspicious activity relating to dogs from the public to the Constabulary have also increased although dog owners appear to be remaining very vigilant to the threat – with only 18 cases of dog theft recorded countywide last year, compared to 19 the year before.
Detective Superintendent Steve Bean said: "Dogs and puppies have become an increasingly valuable commodity and are very attractive to criminals across the country since the start of the pandemic.
"Dog owners have been great at reporting suspicious activity to us and in the vast majority of cases are taking appropriate actions to protect their dogs from potential thieves.
"But we would ask owners not to become complacent – half of the dog thefts reported last year were from residential gardens so home security is vital, as well as making sure your dog is micro chipped and that you’re keeping up-to-date photos.
"Only recently we managed to reunite a recovered dog with her owner purely because an officer recognised her on a Facebook missing dogs group.
“And crucially we must all work to ensure criminals aren’t rewarded for their actions so I would stress to all prospective dog owners who want to purchase happy, healthy dogs that they should not to buy from potentially rogue sellers and puppy farms.
“By buying a dog from a puppy farm you may think that you're 'saving' the dog but you will also be funding criminal activity and often the mistreatment of animals.
“As part of the county’s Police and Crime Plan priority of “a green and pleasant county” as well as "a compassionate approach" we take dog theft very seriously and understand the theft of a pet can be devastating. So if you own a dog or are thinking of buying one please make sure you are taking all necessary precautions.”
Precautions to consider:
• Make sure you have your dog's microchip details readily available.
• Take an up-to-date photograph of your dog making sure to include any unique markings or features and keep it safe. Update it often as the puppy grows. If your dog is stolen the police will find this really useful.
• You should have your contact details attached to the dogs collar.
• When arriving at the vets check for vehicles in the car park or nearby where the occupants appear to be looking at visitors to the vets. Bring this to the attention of the staff and remember registration numbers if possible.
• Always control your pet when leaving and be aware of your surroundings on your journey home.
• When you get home make sure your dog is safe and if left on their own in a garden make sure they cannot escape and a thief cannot walk in to take the dog.
• Take precautions when out walking, have your mobile phone handy, don't let your dog stray too far away and call it back if you see people acting suspiciously or if they ask a lot of questions about your dog.
• Don’t leave them alone tied up outside shops.
• Should the worst happen and your dog is stolen, report it straight away. Social media is useful to spread information quickly and may help quick recovery of the dog.
More information on how to buy a dog responsibly can be found by the RSPCA here:https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/puppy/sales
Anyone who wishes to report information related to animal crimes can do so via the following link or calling 101: https://www.gloucestershire.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/soh/seen-or-heard/