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Puppy farming laws drive increase in dog thefts

Laws to end puppy farming are driving a rise in dog thefts across the country. The price of pups has increased making them a valuable target. Animal welfare charities and police forces are warning owners and breeders to step up security.

Animal welfare charities have issued guidance for new owners in a bid to stop thieves selling stolen animals after a huge increase in offences since the Spring.

Forces across the South East have urged owners to ensure their dogs are chipped after an increase in thefts of pets and puppies.

The rise in thefts has been triggered by new laws created to end puppy farming that came into effect earlier this year – and demand from people who are at home due to the lockdown.

Prices for puppies have reached £2,000 for popular breeds such as golden retrievers.

The Kennel Club research revealed earlier this month showed buyers are ignoring the new laws. Over one in three (38%) admit to sourcing their four-legged friend from third party sellers, directly over the internet or from an online pet shop.

And this has created an opportunity for black market sellers of stolen puppies.

Since April commercial third-party sales have been banned in England.

Under what has been dubbed ‘Lucy’s Law’, anyone wanting to get a new puppy or kitten in England must now buy direct from a breeder, or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead.

Licensed dog breeders are required to show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth. If a business sells puppies or kittens without a licence, they could receive an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months.

The law is named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm.

The reduction in supply has created a market for stolen dogs – including working dogs as farmers say there is now a shortage. Essex Police has warned owners to be vigilant and ensure their animals have a microchip.

Gangs are increasingly targeting legitimate breeders and kennels that are looking after pets while owners are on holiday.

Suffolk Constabulary are investigating the theft of 17 dogs and young puppies from kennels last week. The breeds targeted were Lhasa apso, Labradors, a working cocker spaniel female and a cockapoo.

The force said: “It is believed the offender/s entered the property of the kennels from fields at the rear of the site, removing hinges from gates to steal the dogs. The dogs were housed in a purpose-built kennel on the site.”
The increase in puppy prices has led to people buy from illegal seller advertising on the internet, particularly first time owners who may not be aware of the new laws.

Jane Frankland, the stolen dog’s coordinator from Doglost, said: “Many dogs are being stolen because of a sudden high demand due to an increase in the price of puppies.

“Dogs are known to have been taken from gardens, kennels even when on walks. We would advise to always be on your guard and even if you think you have a secure garden, do not allow your dog to be alone for a long time without checking on them."

The Kennel Club has urged would-be owners to check the background of animals and warned they could face hefty vet bills in future if the animal has not been cared for properly.

Bill Lambert, Head of Health and Welfare at the Kennel Club said: “We need to help people understand what a good dog breeder looks like, and encourage them to take their time, and wait if necessary, so they bring home a happy and healthy puppy which has been brought up with love and care.

“At the very least we urge people to make themselves aware of the scams and tricks of the trade, so that they can spot the exploitative people who are putting puppy welfare at risk and simply cashing in on demand.”

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