Research into extent and nature of dog theft in the UK

Dog theft has featured heavily in the media recently, with victims sharing the distress of having a much loved pet stolen.

It’s an issue that hit the headlines last week when singer Lady Gaga had two French bulldogs stolen, with her dog walker actually shot during the robbery in Los Angeles.

DogLost, a UK charity that helps victims of dog theft, recorded a 170% increase in the crime, from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 dogs in 2020.

It appears to be a growing problem, but what can be done about it?

Dr Helen Selby-Fell, Senior Lecturer in the Department for Policing Organisation and Practice (POP), who works closely with the Centre for Policing Research & Learning (CPRL), together with Dr Daniel Allen from Keele University, have come together to formulate plans for collaborative research to explore various facets of dog theft. They have also recently been joined by Professor Ken Pease, Visiting Professor at University College London.

The team is examining the extent and nature of dog theft in the UK, triangulating police crime data with various other sources. They are also in the process of analysing qualitative data (interviews with victims of dog theft) to explore ‘victim impact’.

It’s hoped the research will then be extended to explore prevention opportunities and to better understand the profile and behaviours of offenders, such as possible links to organised crime.

The team will be formalising their plans for further research over the next few months. The researchers are keen to design and conduct the research in collaboration with UK police forces, animal charities, and other related organisations with relevant expertise or interest.

Despite the wide media reporting of the problem, the full extent and nature of dog theft is not yet clear, and there is limited research exploring it. Our research will help to provide a much better insight into the extent and nature of dog theft in the UK.

Ultimately, we hope that the research will help to build the evidence base and inform the development of the policing (and wider) response to dog theft in the UK.

Dr Helen Selby-Fell, Senior Lecturer in the Department for Policing Organisation and Practice (POP)

An article, including a summary of the researchers’ early findings and plans for further research, has been posted on the Pet Theft Reform website.

Dr Allen created this volunteer-led campaign, in collaboration with the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (Sampa), in 2018. Since their launch in 2014, Sampa have been lobbying to make pet theft a specific offence with tougher sentences.

This article originally appeared on the OU News website. Click here to read the article.

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