A NEW survey has been launched in response to a rise in reports of dogs being stolen.

It is part of a national review into how laws concerning dog theft are enforced and how offenders should be prosecuted.

The findings of the survey, which has been coordinated by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, will be used to inform discussions on the issue nationally.

The Argus: The survey has been launched following an increase in dog thefts in SussexThe survey has been launched following an increase in dog thefts in Sussex

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has suggested that tougher penalties for offenders could be on the cards amid rising cases of theft.

Ms Bourne said she is keen to start an open conversation with the public on this issue as fear is growing to “an all-time high.”

She said: “Pet theft, dog theft in particular, is a growing concern for the public and their fear has been perpetuated over the last couple of weeks with shocking reports in the media of more dogs being snatched by criminals.

“I am incredibly eager to get more detail around this issue and understand residents’ views and if they feel more could be done to respond to their concerns or for more preventative measures to be put in place to better protect their pets.

“I’m pleased to see the Home Secretary recognising the devastating impact of this crime and I hope that the results of this survey will give the government the evidence it needs to take more robust action against perpetrators.”

Demand for puppies has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

The cost of some puppies, on Pets4Homes, is currently as high as £3,000, making them a target for criminals.

Sussex Police has warned that pets are sometimes sold for inflated prices or bred for financial gain.

The force recorded 31 dog thefts in 2020 but at least 12 of those were disputes over dog ownership between known parties.

Seven were reunited with their owners after being found nearby or at a vets.

Inspector Andrea Leahy from the Sussex Police rural crime team said: “We support this national survey and the team are working tirelessly to collate information and intelligence on this worrying crime. We have dedicated officers covering the county who review every report that comes into us.

“We would like to encourage the public to report all suspicious circumstances and read our crime prevention advice on our website.

“We are dedicated to keeping your pets safe and target any persons believed to be involved in this distressing crime.”

The 60-second survey will open be open until 17.00 on Friday 12th March and can be found here https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/dogtheft