Nottinghamshire Police have become the first police force in the country to appoint a dedicated specialist dog theft lead.

The move comes as a survey launched by Nottinghamshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (DPPC) Emma Foody in response to growing cases of dog theft across the country during the pandemic reveals that dog owners are increasingly fearful over their pets’ safety.

In response, Ms Foody has outlined a three-point plan to tackle dog theft in the county and beyond. It comprises:

The appointment of a dedicated Chief Inspector as dog theft lead in Nottinghamshire Police with Ms Foody urging voters in other areas to call on their Police and Crime Commissioners to do the same as they decide how to cast their votes in May.

A renewed focus on safety advice for owners, with new video guidance from Nottinghamshire Police’s Dog Section advising owners how to keep their pet safe.

A ‘Canine Coalition’ to tackle the issue, with dog welfare organisations working together to tackle the scourge of theft and demand Government action on tougher sentences. Guide Dogs for the Blind have already pledged their support.

“I’m delighted that Nottinghamshire has become the first force in the country to appoint a dog theft lead. There is growing alarm – both locally and nationally – over the threat of dog theft. This has been fuelled by a number of distressing incidents which have eroded public confidence.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the support of Guide Dogs for the Blind in helping us highlight how serious this issue is, and I’m keen to work with other organisations to do whatever we can to prevent dog theft in the future and disrupt the lucrative market that has emerged during the national lockdowns.

“As a dog owner myself, I know just how worrying this issue is, and I’m determined to fight for tougher penalties for those involved in this despicable crime.”

Tim Stafford, Director of Canine Affairs at Guide Dogs, said:

“Stealing a dog is not the same as stealing someone’s television, despite the law seeing it this way. The theft of a dog is much more like the loss of a loved family member. What’s more, blind and visually impaired people rely on their guide dogs for their independence and wellbeing. A huge investment of love, time and money over many years has gone into creating each of our incredible guide dog partnerships.

“This year, for the first time, we have been informed of a couple of incidents when someone has attempted to take a guide dog from its owner. While such incidents are very rare in relation to how many guide dog partnerships our charity supports, we are concerned about how fearful our guide dog owners are of being a potential target at the moment. The law needs to change to stop dog theft from being a low-risk, high-reward crime, and better reflect how people value their dogs.”

Craig Guildford, Nottinghamshire’s Chief Constable, said:

“Firstly, it’s important to reassure local residents that we have not seen a significant spike in dog theft in Nottinghamshire. However, we obviously want to keep it that way, and give our dog owners confidence that we are taking the matter seriously. That’s why I felt it was important to have a senior officer to lead on this.

“Firstly we want to prevent dogs being stolen in the first place, with the heartbreaking stress and trauma this causes the owners, and will be working hard to spread those messages.

“Secondly I want to send a clear message to those who seek to carry out this cold-hearted crime that it will not be tolerated, it is taken very seriously and we will come after you.”

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