'Everybody wants a pet' - Lockdown sparks surge in dog thefts
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Dog owners have been warned to protect their pooches after a surge in the number of lockdown-related thefts and attempted thefts.
The charity DogLost said reported dog thefts in the UK had risen from 172 in 2019 and 465 in 2020 - an increase of 170pc.
Amanda Knight runs a website and Facebook group for dog lovers called the Barking Bugle from her north Norfolk home.
She said there was “no doubt” the coronavirus lockdowns had increased the number of dogs being targeted by thieves.
Ms Knight said: “During the lockdowns the demand for pets has increased considerably - everybody wants a pet for company.
“I used to mainly hear about dogs getting lost, but now I’ve got reports coming in almost every day from people worried someone is trying to steal their dog. It’s making some people very upset and very distressed.”
Ms Knight said one tactic thieves used was blowing a whistle to attract dogs that were off the lead over to them.
But she said most dogs were stolen from people’s gardens, so the most important step people could take to protect their dogs was to make sure their garden was safe and secure.
There has been an increased number of dog thefts reported to Norfolk police in recent months, including a labrador stolen from its kennel in Hockering, and the theft of three red cocker spaniel puppies in the Rougham area.
Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, said he was getting ever more emails from people whose dogs had been targeted.
Mr Baker said: “I think the public are worried about it. We know that people are travelling hundreds of miles to case out areas, going to beaches and certain areas and looking at particular dog breeds.
“It’s simply not good enough that women are feeling so worried that they can’t go out in the evening for a walk with their dog because they think they might be followed by someone trying to steal their pet.”
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Dog thefts will be among the issues discussed at a online rural crime briefing and Q&A run by Norfolk police, at 6pm on Monday, March 8. Anyone interested in joining the session can email OperationRandall@norfolk.police.uk.
How to protect your pooch - Top tips from The Barking Bugle
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-Over 50pc of dogs are stolen from gardens so always keep an eye on your dog when outside and make sure that fences and gates are in good repair and secure.
-Gates should be locked and bolted at all times. You should never leave your dog out in the garden if you are not at home and all dogs should be inside the house at night.
-If your garden is very large consider fencing off a smaller area for them.
-Don’t make it easy for thieves to identify you have a dog. Remove ‘beware of the dog’ signs and visible doggy garden ornaments.
-Install good security lighting and consider CCTV.
-Don't let your dog out of sight when on a walk.
-Mix up your walking route and go out at different times of the day and beware of any cars pulling up next to you.
-Double clip your dog’s lead on by using a lockable carabiner clip.
-Carry an alarm or whistle.
-Avoid posting specific details about your dog and where you walk on social media.
-Never leave your dog tied up unattended, for example outside a shop.
-Make sure your dog is microchipped and the details are registered and up to date.