The Home Secretary has pledged to look at measures to tackle “absolutely shocking” pet thefts and to “go after” the thieves who are profiting from the crime.
Speaking on LBC Radio, Priti Patel stopped short of committing to tougher new laws but said she was “looking into what kind of measures can be put in place in terms of the criminality”.
It comes after former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith called for tougher sentences for pet thieves amid reports of a spike in the crime.
Ms Patel said: “This is absolutely shocking, it’s a shocking crime that is taking place”, adding that she understood in London “it’s very prevalent right now”.
She said she was working with Sir Iain and talking to police because “we need to actually understand what is going on here”.
Ms Patel added: “This is a very serious issue… it’s absolutely horrible, quite frankly.
“I can give your listeners this assurance now. We are definitely looking into what kind of measures can be put in place in terms of the criminality, because obviously that is the piece that sits with me, not the sentencing, what we might be able to do in laws to absolutely go after these individuals that are stealing pets and making money out of this.”
But she stopped short of suggesting that any new laws could be on the way when asked, instead saying: “I’m not going to say a new law is on the way, I’m not going to promise something that not’s going to be delivered but I am looking at this right now.”
Derbyshire Police appealed for information after eight miniature dachshunds were stolen overnight on Thursday from a property near Swadlincote.
There have also been arrests over suspected dog thefts in Manchester, Bristol and Cambridgeshire in recent weeks.
Nottinghamshire’s deputy police and crime commissioner, Emma Foody, has urged dog owners to keep a closer eye on their pets amid reports of a spate of thefts.
According to Ms Foody, the charity DogLost has seen reports of thefts rise by 170% in the past year from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 in 2020.
Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “During the coronavirus pandemic, criminals have adjusted their activities and are taking advantage of the big demand for pets over the lockdown period.
“The cost of a puppy has considerably increased over the past year, making this a lucrative market for organised criminals to exploit.”