Special report: An insight into dog theft in Hertfordshire

Tig, the springer spaniel, was stolen from kennels while her Redbourn family were on holiday.

Tig, the springer spaniel, was stolen from kennels while her Redbourn family were on holiday. - Credit: Mel Arnold

Dog-owners beware, thieves have been targeting man's best friend as the demand for pets increases during lockdowns.

Many people have taken comfort from their furry friends during the pandemic restrictions, so to have them ripped away without warning is hugely traumatic, yet this sort of theft is sadly on the increase. 

Since August 2020, 24 dogs have been reported as stolen across Hertfordshire, and of those reported, just two have been found. 

The figures were provided by Herts police following a Freedom of Information Act request from this newspaper.  

And it is not a specific type of four-legged friend that seems to have fallen foul to this awful fate as stolen breeds include Jack Russells, Irish terriers, lurchers, chihuahuas and miniature schnauzers. A blue bulldog and some unknown breeds have also been stolen.

In a recent interview with the BBC, The Dog's Trust chief executive Owen Sharp said that the charity is seeing increases in puppy prices and that demand for dogs is at an all time high.

Samantha Walker had her family pet Max stolen from Cell Barnes Lane in St Albans, on Sunday, December 6. The dog was found by Herts police in Houghton Regis almost a week later. 

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She said: "I felt a mixture of emotions when Max was stolen. Angry that someone could do that without feeling any guilt. Sick with worry. Mainly because we didn't know where he was, how he was being treated or even if he was still alive. 

"It still affects us now. My eldest still remembers very clearly what happened and if she hears or sees of another animal stolen, she gets upset and says she feels sorry for those people. It's affected me quite badly. I'm very anxious about taking Max out, whether it be on my own or as a family."

She was very grateful to police for their effort and success in relocating Max. 

Another family had their Pomeranian Benny taken a week before Christmas.

Benny, the pomeranian, was stolen from Tring a week before Christmas and is still missing. 

Benny, the pomeranian, was stolen from Tring a week before Christmas and is still missing. - Credit: Lyndsey Gates

Owner Lyndsey Gates said: "My parents are completely broken and my brother, being disabled, is really struggling with understanding it all. Benny was his unofficial therapy dog.

"It's like losing a family member and being worried about them everyday. It never goes away." 

Another heartbroken family is also desperate to locate their springer spaniel Tig who was stolen in September.

Redbourn resident Mel Arnold said: "We are still hoping for some positive news about Tig. She is a beloved family pet. She has been spotted in Hertfordshire and police are still trying to locate her. 

"The pain of losing a member of our family has had a devastating impact on my siblings and my parents. Both my parents are suffering from the uncertainty of not knowing where their poor dog is."

According to the Blue Cross action can be taken to minimise the risk of being a victim of dog theft. The advice they give is: 

  • Think twice before leaving your dog tied up outside a shop
  • Don’t leave your dog alone in the car, even for a few minutes
  • Prevent your dog being stolen while out walking by varying your times of walks and routes​​​​​​

Inspector Nicki Dean, from Hertfordshire Constabulary  said: “Concerns have increased around dog thefts during lockdown as the demand for pets has grown.

“Whilst thefts in Hertfordshire have remained relatively low, across the country there has been growing concerns over the theft of dogs from homes and breeders kennels. Dog owners should join Hertfordshire’s Neighbourhood Watch to get all the latest alerts and crime prevention advice at www.owl.co.uk/herts"