In February 2020 my family and I welcomed a new addition to our home: Brennan, a chocolate sprocker spaniel puppy from Norfolk. Having grown up in suburbia without pets, the experience has been a great joy but little did I know just how lucky our timing would be, acquiring her just before lockdown.
As such, I was not surprised that so many people in South Suffolk and across the country rushed to purchase puppies as lockdown saw us spending more time at home and walking on a more regular basis. Unfortunately, the downside of this increased demand for pets has been a corresponding surge in price, attracting those with more nefarious intent and leading to a very troubling rise in dog theft.
This is not a new crime but in the year of coronavirus the rates have rocketed. In Suffolk alone the number of dog thefts reported to the police doubled from 16 in 2019 to 32 in 2020. Many constituents have shared their anxiety with me on this subject, and I am aware how local social media groups have been busy with local people relating their own worries for our four-legged friends. I cannot imagine how upsetting the theft of a pet must be for the owners, and of course, such crimes are incredibly traumatic for the animal concerned. Fortunately, there have been notable law enforcement successes with 83 animals recovered from a travellers’ site in Ipswich earlier this year.
As your MP I have been liaising with Suffolk’s Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, on this matter. They have released information about this crime on their website, including top tips for prevention. These include avoiding leaving your dogs in the garden or outside kennels if you are not at home, and thinking twice before leaving your pet alone, secured outside a shop or any other location. Finally, the Prime Minister announced three new animal welfare Bills in the Queen’s Speech, and further criminal justice measures. I hope we can use the most appropriate legislative vehicle to strengthen the law on dog theft and deter this heinous crime.