AN animal welfare charity is appealing for help in funding extra security measures after national rise in dog theft

The National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) Cornwall based in Hayle is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amy Hall, fundraising and supporter relations officer, says the trust is attempting to fund the installation of security lights and cameras at its site at Wheal Alfred to try and deter potential thieves.

"In 2020 a number of organised raids have taken place all over the country at breeders, kennels and even boarding kennels resulting in incredible heartbreak, hence why increased security is such an important task for us as a centre," she said.

"Our staff are even now walking our dogs in pairs or even larger socially distanced groups as there are horrendous stories of dog walkers being punched in the face or knocked to the ground whilst their beloved pet is stolen in broad daylight.

"Dog owners do not want to live in fear of thieves, but we should all be taking extra precautions at present."

She says in the first Covid 19 lockdown in 2020 the demand for pets rose 104% from 2019 and the price of pups soared along with this.

"With only a certain number of reputable breeders in the UK, the market has been flooded with puppy farms and doggy dealers to keep up with this high demand," she said. "Where there is demand, there is supply, and with demand so high these puppy farms are making a lot of money. In fact, according to a BBC article, puppy pedalling has become a more lucrative trade than drug dealing for some who are reportedly making millions of pounds.

"Whilst this is the case unfortunately the Government continue to refuse to classify dog theft as a crime in its own right, making the penalty for this crime no more than stealing a wallet or phone, although we all know how much more devastating the theft of a family pet would be on ourselves and our families."

She says that is why they are supporting Lucy’s Law which was brought in in April 2020 and enforces a ban on third party sales of puppies and kittens. This important change in the law will help put an end to the cruel puppy farm trade and stop the needless suffering of countless animals across the country.

"As a rescue centre and with many animals and breeds on site you can understand why this is a topic we are so passionate about," she said.

"If you are thinking of buying a dog, please avoid being part of this problem by making sure you are buying from a reputable source and not fuelling organised crime. NAWT’s Puppy Buyer’s Checklist will help you make the right decisions.

"Finally, if you wish to help us fund the installation of security lights and cameras at our centres you can do so via the following donation link. Thank you for your continued support."

Devon and Cornwall Police say whilst there is a slight rise in dog thefts being reported in 2020 at 13, it's still less than 2017 (20) or 2018 (16) and if the Jan/Feb figures before the pandemic really took hold were taken out then there is no increase at all.

“We take all matters of animal theft seriously and we appreciate the distress and heartache that dog thefts cause" said the spokesman.

"We offer several crime prevention tips on how best to keep your dog safe:

• Avoid leaving a dog tied up outside of a shop or left alone in a car

• Secure your garden and home. Ensure gates are locked, use bolts at the top and bottom of any outdoor gates

• Consider installing monitor or sensor alarms and/or CCTV

• Keep a current clear photo of your dog

• Keep an ID tag on your dog. By law your dog should also be microchipped

• Never leave your pet in the garden or yard unattended