Britain experiences steep rise in pet theft

Dog theft has increased in Britain for two consecutive years, with five dogs reported stolen everyday in 2017,  according to new figures compiled by Direct Line Insurance.

The rise in popularity of 'designer' dog breeds like the French Bulldog, which cost upwards of £1,000, is contributing to the increase as their hefty price tag makes them a prime target for canine thieves.

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Last year 1,909 dogs were reported stolen to police forces across the country compared with 1,788 in 2016, an increase of 6.8% in just 12 months.

The number of reported dog thefts in 2016 was 14% higher than in 2015.

Designer dog popularity fuels rise

Thefts of French Bulldogs - a distinctive breed popular with celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, The Rock, Lady Gaga and Madonna - increased 27% from 2016-2017, with 61 stolen last year.

The number of Chihuahuas and Huskies taken from their owners is also on the rise, with 57 and 18 stolen in 2017 respectively.

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The figures, shows the Staffordshire Bull Terrier continues to be the most commonly stolen breed of dog, while there has been a spike in the number of stolen crossbreeds like Cockapoos and Puggles, which have become increasingly popular.

Staffordshire Terriers are the most commonly stolen breed in the UK (Photo: Shutterwstock)

Prit Powar, head of pet insurance at Direct Line, said: "The rise in popularity of 'designer' dog breeds among celebrities and the 'fashion' for certain types of dogs means people are willing to pay thousands for an animal, which unfortunately makes them prime targets for thieves.

"Pedigree owners need to be especially vigilant.

"There is no excuse for the theft of an animal but some of the reasons behind dog theft include using the animal for dog fighting, breeding or selling on."

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Yorkshire and Humber a hotbed for dog theft

The Metropolitan Police recorded the highest number of stolen dogs in 2017, with 225 reports. West Yorkshire police followed behind with 172 and Kent police with 160.

The data showed some positive news, as the number of dogs returned to their owners also rose in 2017 from 365 to 388, meaning that stolen dogs have a one in five chance of being returned to their owner.

On a regional basis, Yorkshire and the Humber saw the highest number of dog thefts in 2017 with 346 recorded.