AS concerns about dog theft soar following the surge in pandemic puppy buying, new research shows a shocking failure to tackle a crime that is devastating 196 families every month in the UK, with only two per cent of cases resulting in a criminal charge.

The statistics, gathered by The Kennel Club through Freedom of Information requests to the 45 police forces in the UK, to which 36 responded, show that there were an estimated 2,355* cases of dog theft in 2020, which is an 7 per cent increase on 2019 (2,199).

This amounts to more than 196 dogs being stolen, to the heartbreak of their owners, every single month.

In the North East there were 199 dog thefts in 2020, but no criminal charges.

No suspect was identified in two thirds (66 per cent) of these reported dog theft cases in the North East, and in 31 per cent a suspect was identified but no action was taken, due to ‘evidential difficulties’.

The statistics are revealed 79 days after the Government’s Pet Theft Taskforce was established (8 May) to help tackle the issue – in which time another 508 dogs have been stolen. The Kennel Club is urging more transparent recording of pet theft on a central database, so that underlying causes of dog theft can be tackled and for the emotional value of dogs to be recognised in sentencing.

“Dog theft has devastating consequences for both the owners and the animals involved and it is quite frankly jaw dropping that 98 per cent of cases never result in a criminal charge and in more than half, no suspect is ever identified,” said Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club.

“Not only that but when a sentence is handed out it is often treated no more seriously than a petty crime, despite the fact that there is nothing ‘petty’ about pet theft. The low charge rates and the paltry sentences are an almost open invitation to criminals looking to target innocent dog owners.

“Whilst most people will never be unfortunate enough to fall victim to this crime, those that do are left totally bereft but without a clear route to justice. We welcome the Government taking this issue seriously and hope that the Taskforce can deliver meaningful change that will give greater transparency in how we report and record this crime, and deliver more proportionate sentences that treat dog theft with the seriousness it deserves.”

Amongst the actions being called for as part of The Kennel Club’s ‘Paw and Order: Dog Theft Reform’ campaign is for more resources to be allocated to this crime and for more transparent, centralised collection of data about pet theft, including the number of crimes, arrests and convictions. 

Currently, there is no central record in order to help decision makers understand the scale of the problem or the circumstances around it – for example, whether a theft was driven by opportunism or organised crime.

The Kennel Club is also calling for a reclassification of how dog theft is treated in the law, as currently sentencing provisions place undue weighting on the monetary value of the pet rather than giving sufficient weight to the emotional impact of the crime.

This means it is often treated in the same way as the theft of a laptop or mobile phone, rather than as a category one offence, which carries a maximum of seven years in prison in England and Wales.

Dog owners are reminded that they are unlikely to fall victim to this crime but there are steps they can take to help keep their dogs safe.

Bill continued: “There are steps that people can take to help protect their dogs. A dog should never be left unsupervised, whether out and about or at home in the garden and it should have a reliable recall, so that you can always see its whereabouts. It is important that all dogs are microchipped, and that their details are kept up to date with their microchip database, and that information about your dog, such as its price or address, isn’t shared with strangers.”

As part of its ‘Paw and Order: Dog Theft Reform’ campaign, The Kennel Club has produced a downloadable template letter to help the pet-loving public to raise their concerns with their MP and spur Government to change the law.

The downloadable template letter, advice on preventing dog theft and further information on The Kennel Club’s campaign is available at

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