Bid to step up task force in Milton Keynes to stop pets being stolen as cases soar nationwide

A plea to tackle dog theft has been refused because it was deemed to be 'not a key issue' in MK.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 3:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 10:54 am

Now Conservatives councillors have hit out at the rejection, which came from the Labour-led MK Council this month.

Yet a national survey had shown dog theft has soared all over the country during lockdown, with 97 per cent of people describing it as a serious problem and 22 per cent knowing of someone whose dog had been stolen in the past year.

Locally the demand for dogs as pets has hugely increased over the past year as people have been spending so much more time at home. This has meant the price of dogs and puppies has risen accordingly, said Thames Valley Police Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber

Dog theft has soared by 250% during the Covid crisis

"During the pandemic, dog ownership and prices have risen significantly. Pet theft is now the worst it has ever been, rising in some areas by 250 per cent," he said.

This week is national Pet Theft Awareness Week and dog owners are joining forces to raise awareness about the spiralling trend and educate the public on theft prevention

Pet Theft Awareness Week was set up by Arnot Wilson of the Dog Union and Richard Jordan of VioVet. They aim to seek law changes so that dog thefts are recorded properly and also bring about facing harsher penalties for the thieves.

As it stands, dog theft is difficult to record. In a report from the University of Keele studying dog theft, they report that dog theft figures are often perceived low because police forces can label dog theft as “burglary, domestic burglary, vehicle offenses, theft from the person, and other theft offences”. This can mean they get lost in the statistics of other offences due to the nature of the legislation.

Locally the MK Conservatives, with the backing of PCC Mr Barber, have vowed to set up a Dog Theft Taskforce aimed at raising awareness and seeking out ways to reverse the trend in animal crime.

However, this was rejected by MK Labour and Liberal Democrat partnership with Labour Cabinet member, Cllr Lauren Townsend, stating that dog theft is “currently not a key issue here in Milton Keynes.”

Cllr Alex Walker, leader of MK's Conservative group, said:“Dog theft has a devastating impact on families and it can also be a gateway to animal cruelty.

"As part of Pet Theft Awareness Week, we will be letting residents know that we do care about pet theft in MK and we have a plan to deal with it. By establishing a Dog Theft Taskforce should we win in May, we can ensure residents have all the information to keep aware of this crime but also seek ways to reverse the trend.”

Editor's note: The headline on an earlier version of this story has been changed to reflect that the rise in cases referenced in the story was nationwide.\