Pet dogs are being stolen in Sussex

DOZENS of pet dogs have been stolen across Sussex. Sussex Police have warned criminals are stealing beloved pets from families to exploit them for gain. Of the 31 dog thefts recorded in 2020, seven were reunited with their owners after being found nearby or at a vets.

The force has warned that pets are sometimes sold for inflated prices or bred for financial gain. Earlier this week, The Argus reported on claims that dogwalkers were being followed by men in a “pick up truck” in an attempt to steal their animals. One Facebook user claimed that a man jumped out of the vehicle with a “dog lead” in his hand.

Sussex Police said it is aware of the social media posts but said that reports of dog theft remain “thankfully” low in Sussex. The force said that of the cases that happened last year, six are believed to have been stolen by a stanger. Inspector Andrea Leahy, from the Rural Crime Team (RCT), said: “Dog theft is an abhorrent crime where criminals selfishly steal beloved pets from their families – sometimes to exploit these poor creatures by selling them on at inflated prices or breeding them for monetary gain.

“The emotional impact of a missing dog is considerable, with victims left bereft and searching for their much-loved family member, in some cases not knowing whether they have been lost or taken. “Unfortunately, because of the nature of these incidents, it can sometimes be difficult for police to identify whether or not a crime has occurred and, if it has, if there are any realistic investigative lines of enquiry. “We are aware of worrying reports from across the country circulating on social media and would like to reassure our local communities that cases of dog theft remain relatively low in Sussex and tackling it is a key priority for the RCT.

“There is currently limited evidence to suggest Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) are targeting dogs in the area, however it is known this is happening across the UK. “By raising awareness, we want to both prevent dog thefts and to increase the quality of community intelligence reported to police, so we can take action to catch offenders.” Sussex Police recorded 31 dog thefts in 2020, but at least 12 of those were disputes over dog ownership between known parties.

The 19 remaining cases include: – Six typical thefts where dogs where there is evidence dogs were taken by a third party unknown to the victim – Six cases where it is believed dogs were lost rather than stolen

– Three cases where the victim has ceased engaging with police and it is unknown if the dog has been found In seven cases dogs were recovered after being located nearby or at a vets. Dog owners to take necessary steps to keep them safe.

A GBP2,500 reward has been offered to the safe return of a stolen therapy dog. The “much loved” dog called Hazel was stolen on August 15, last year, near Walderton in Chichester. A van or large vehicle was heard pulling up and a dog was heard frantically barking.

It is believed the one-year-old Cocker Spaniel mix could have been moved to any of the nearby counties, such as Hampshire, Surrey or Kent.

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