Nottinghamshire is taking the lead in the fight against dog theft with a new national coalition to tackle the problem across the UK.
The Kennel Club - the UK's largest charity devoted to canine welfare and health - has offered its full support to Nottinghamshire's Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Emma Foody in her quest for tougher justice for those who steal dogs.
Ms Foody, herself a dog owner, unveiled ambitious plans earlier month to develop a ‘Canine Coalition' in response to growing cases of dog theft across the country during the pandemic.
The Deputy PCC is demanding the Government pay greater attention to the problem and has now secured the full backing of The Kennel Club in tackling the issue.
Other organisations swift to pledge support are Guide Dogs for the Blind, animal charity Blue Cross and the Wood Green Animals Sanctuary.
It comes after Nottinghamshire Police became the first police force in the country to appoint a dedicated specialist dog theft lead.
New video guidance from Nottinghamshire Police's Dog Section is also due to be released later this week to advise owners how best to keep their pet safe.
Ms Foody said: "We are absolutely delighted to have the support of The Kennel Club and other animal welfare organisations across the country in our efforts to bring this vital issue to the fore.
"Our collective voice is far more powerful and together, we will do everything in our means to raise the profile of this despicable crime and demand more action to prevent further distressing incidents occurring in our communities.
"The risk of theft is worrying dog owners across the country, and I am one of them. Alongside our demands for tougher justice, it is important owners are armed with the best advice and information available to protect their pets and take a proactive role in their safety and as a team we will aim to deliver that education."
Ms Foody has outlined a three-point plan to tackle dog theft in Nottinghamshire and beyond comprising the appointment of a dedicated Chief Inspector as dog theft lead in the force, a renewed focus on safety advice for owners, and the launch of a ‘Canine Coalition' with dog welfare organisations working side-by-side to demand toucher action from the Government.
A spokesperson for The Kennel Club said: "The Kennel Club is proud to be part of Nottinghamshire Police's Canine Coalition and is committed to continuing to raise awareness of pet theft. This is a tragic issue which not only raises welfare concerns for the animals stolen, but also has devastating impacts on owners' victim to the crime.
"We are pleased to see Nottinghamshire taking the lead on this issue and we are committed to working alongside them to press the Government for stronger action on behalf of the nation's pets.
"The Kennel Club has long called for pet theft sentencing to reflect the true impact of the crime. We believe that current sentencing guidelines fail to take into account a dog's role within their family and the devastating impact of their loss, instead placing undue weighting on their monetary value. As such, The Kennel Club is pleased to join the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner in urgently calling for the Government to find a solution which secures justice for the many victims of this crime."
Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs at Blue Cross, added: "We are pleased to see the introduction of a designated officer to lead on tackling dog theft in Nottinghamshire police force, and hope to see similar roles set up elsewhere. We need to support dog owners in preventing these terrible crimes, but also making sure that victims get proper help and support, and this is a clear step to ensuring that.
"The effect of having your pet stolen can be absolutely devastating for owners. This is why we want the Government to do more to deal with this increasing problem. Penalties need to be tougher for those committing these crimes to act as deterrent to others."
A survey launched by Ms Foody in response to growing cases of dog theft across the country during the pandemic revealed dog owners are increasingly fearful over their pets' safety.
The survey, which attracted almost 18,000 responses, found wide support for tougher penalties against dog thieves with 98.1% - at least nine in every 10 dog owners (16,505) - saying theft of an animal should be taken more seriously while 72.9% (12,380) said they did not believe seven years' imprisonment - the current maximum penalty - sufficiently reflected the seriousness of the crime.