Croydon is ranked as having the most dog thefts of any London borough according to a recent survey that analysed data from police forces across the capital.
Of 1,409 dog thefts in London over the past five years, Croydon’s police force reported the most with a total of 71 according to the survey from money.co.uk.
The second ranked borough was Lewisham with 67 stolen dogs. Tower Hamlets and Hackney ranked fourth out of the London Boroughs with a reported total of 59 dog thefts.
Croydon’s stolen dogs more than doubled this year compared to figures in 2016, with the borough having a total of 9 dog thefts in 2016 compared to 20 in 2020.
Commenting on the rise in dog thefts across the UK, David McNaught, the Dog Trust’s regional press officer said: “While it is hard to pinpoint exactly why dog theft has possibly increased during the pandemic, we do know that getting a pet during lockdowns has been extremely popular and that the cost of puppies has risen dramatically, especially in breeds like French bulldogs who used to cost around £800-£1000 and now demand prices in excess of £3000.”
In response to the rise in theft the Government responded with the introduction of a Pet Theft Taskforce to investigate the rise that took place since the start of lockdown.
The taskforce, which was announced May 8 by the Environment Secretary, will gather evidence to understand the factors which has contributed to the rise in stolen dogs and find suitable methods to tackle the problem.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary said: “Pet owners shouldn’t live in fear so we’ve set up this Taskforce to thoroughly investigate the issue and ensure that we have the measures in place to stop these criminals in their tracks.”
The Dogs Trust’s Chief Executive Owen Sharp said of the taskforce: “Any action to urgently tackle this growing issue is a step in the right direction, we hope the taskforce will take meaningful action to end the heartache owners endure when their pets are cruelly taken away from them.
The rise in thefts coincided with a spike in demand for dogs during lockdown over the past 12 months.
Data gathered by the Kennel Club, a health and information organisation for dogs found that between March and August 2020 the UK saw a 161 per cent rise in puppy searches on its website compared to the same period in 2019. As demand rose so did prices – data collected by dogs trust found that the price for Chow Chows rose by 134 per cent – £2618 in October 2020 compared to £1,119 in March.
Mark Stepham, founder of LostStolenDog.com said: “Dog theft has risen over the last year between 170 – 250 per cent depending on which data/reports you read… There has been a high demand for puppies, as most rescue centres have been closed, or with very strict access to view dogs.
“Prices therefore have risen steeply – some breeds 12/18 months ago that were £1200/1500 are now fetching £4000+. Breeders have been cashing in on this and unfortunately the petty criminals have seen a way of making easy money.
“Many thefts are random opportunists, but there are also organised gangs that have been stealing dogs to order.”