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Delivering on my commitment to tackle dog theft

While footage of a gang stealing a beloved family pet from a Devon garden makes shocking viewing for any animal lover – it must be truly heartbreaking for owners of 20-month-old French bulldog Maggie, who at the time of writing is either still in the hands of thieves or who has been sold on to unsuspecting new owners.

Delivering on my commitment to tackle dog theft

Maggie’s true owner, Chloe Jade, has shared the CCTV film of the theft far and wide since the dog was stolen from Bradninch, a peaceful and generally crime-free town just east of Exeter, at 12.30pm on Thursday, May 13.

Police have appealed and I live in hope that someone will identify these callous individuals.

Fortunately dog theft is rare in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Nationally, dog theft cases have increased by 170% between 2019 and 2020, but locally the figures are lower, with a 28% increase over the same period.

The effect of this crime is devastating on the families that have their pet stolen. That’s why I and fellow police and crime commissioners carried out a survey to understand people’s views including how concerned they were about dog theft, how well they thought the police were tackling it and whether there was support for tougher penalties for thieves.  

Currently the law treats an animal as just another piece of property, but we think they are more than that, most dog owners see their animals as part of the family, and here in the Westcountry working dogs are sometimes targeted, affecting people’s livelihoods. Often the bloodlines of these prized animals have been in the family for generations, so the loss is devastating.

I wrote about this back in March when the national survey closed. A total of 17,452 people from Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Dorset responded to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ poll, which showed that more than three-quarters of dog owners said they were more scared of walking their pet because of the heightened risk that it would be stolen.

Of the 124,729 people who responded to the online survey an overwhelming majority said dog theft was a “serious problem” and thieves should face stiffer sentences.

That’s one of the reasons I made tackling dog theft a manifesto pledge before the recent election and I welcome the news earlier this month – announced by Camborne and Redruth MP and Environment Secretary George Eustice – that the Government was setting up a task force to investigate this issue. People might think that it would be down on the Government agenda but some of the criminals involved in pet theft are serious, organised and involved in other types of illegal activity so if pet theft brings them to the attention of the police then that’s a good thing.

I am delighted to see that Neighbourhood Watch are also working nationally to raise awareness of this crime and to provide advice to people on how to ‘protect their pooch’ in their new campaign launched this week and I will be working alongside them to do all I can to help promote this campaign.

Before this announcement some excellent work on the subject – its different types and the impact upon victims – was carried out by one of our rural crime officers and a specialist problem solver, and last week Devon and Cornwall Police announced that it had appointed a dedicated dog theft lead - Chief Inspector Rob Curtis.

The force has procured 30 microchip scanners, some of which have been donated by the charity Dog Lost, to help reunite dogs with their families.

Chief Insp Curtis urges all owners to visit their vet and have their pet microchipped with all contact details kept up to date in the event of moving home or changing a phone number. Microchipping is not only a legal requirement, but is essential in helping to return pets back to their rightful owners.

At home make sure your garden is secure, try not to leave your dog outside unattended, be careful of bogus callers or displaying signs that say, ‘my poodle lives here’ and ideally install security lighting and CCTV outside your property, or if you cannot afford it, simply display signs warning that you do. Do not leave your dog unattended outside shops or in an insecure car.

If your dog does go missing it is important to establish if it has been stolen or is simply lost. Check with your neighbours and ask them to check their gardens and garages. If you still cannot find your dog, check with the local dog warden, tell the microchip company your dog is missing and call local vets and rescue centres.

In the unlikely event that your dog is being stolen and someone is physically taking your dog from you, shout that your dog is being stolen and attract attention. If you can take photos or videos and report it to the police by calling 999. If there are any witnesses nearby, ask for their contact details and report your missing dog to the microchip company.

Go online at for more information, and if you have any information that could reunite Chloe with Maggie please contact police on 101 or via email at quoting crime reference CR/038549/21.