Dog owners scared to walk pets during day, survey reveals

There have been warnings about dog thefts in Suffolk. Stock picture. Picture: PA

Dog walkers are fearful of walking their pets during the day, a survey has revealed - Credit: PA

Dog owners are scared about walking their pets during daytime, according to a major survey launched after a rise in dog thefts over the last year. 

More than 124,000 people took part in the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) survey, which included more than 11,000 responses from East Anglia. 

More than 82,000 dog owners said they were more fearful of taking their pet out for a walk during the daytime over the past year, while more than 77,000 were more scared to do so at night. 

The survey comes after shocking statistics revealed that 46 dogs were stolen in Suffolk from January to July in 2020

That figure, in the first seven months of last year, was double the average in each of the past five years. 

In Essex, 60 reports of dog thefts were made in 2020, but that was down from 65 in 2019, police said. 

A surge in demand for dogs and puppies during the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in prices, which has been exploited by criminal gangs

Following low prosecution rates, campaigners are calling for pet theft to be made a specific criminal and imprisonable offence, something which 107,940 survey respondents agreed with. 

Poluce and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, said further economic impacts could have knock-on effects like unemployment...

Tim Passmore, Suffolk's police and crime commissioner, said the sentencing guidelines are in "urgent need of review" - Credit: Archant

Tim Passmore, Suffolk's police and crime commissioner, said the sentencing guidelines for the crime are in "urgent need of review". 

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"The response of more than 120,000 people to the dog theft survey shows the level of concern there is throughout the UK to this growing problem," he said. 

“Dog theft is a particularly cruel crime and I think the sentencing guidelines are in urgent need of review to ensure the thieves, when caught, receive a stiff sentence which will act as a deterrent for other criminals

“A pet dog is a member of the family, and as a dog-owner myself, I can understand how very distressing this crime is for both owner and pet.

“We all need to make sure we do everything possible to report suspicious circumstances to the police. I would encourage all dog owners to keep their pets safe and take a look at the constabulary website for advice, Please remember if your dog is lost and suspected stolen, it is important to report it as quickly as you can.”

Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst Picture ARCHANT

Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst Picture ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Roger Hirst, police, fire and crime commissioner for Essex, said more needs to be done to strengthen the law.

“We are fortunate in Essex to have had a low number of reported dog thefts but even those few are too many especially for those directly affected," he said. 

"We can and must do more to protect our pets. As dog owners we understand the impact that this crime can have, and these survey results clearly show the strength of feeling within our communities.

“It is clear to me that the issue is important to you and we need to do more to strengthen the law, change how pet theft is reported and increase awareness and prevention activity so that you all know how to keep your dogs safe and protected."

Mr Hirst added that action would be taken in response to the survey results. 

“I will be speaking to the home secretary to provide my thoughts and input into the review of dog thefts that she has started," he said. 

"I will also be working with my colleagues across the country to look for ways we can help forces work together to provide a robust deterrent and will continue to work in Essex to keep our owns pets safe. Please be assured we will be acting on your comments and views and taking this forward.”