DOG thefts have risen by 170 per cent during lockdown according to a charity, sparking fear among pet owners.

A survey organised by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne found that dog owners have grown fearful of taking their dog for a walk.

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

The Argus: Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy BourneSussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne

While reports of dog theft are relatively low in Sussex the police have issued new guidance to owners to keep their pets safe.

Sussex Police have advised owners to consider taking the following steps:

• Ensuring your pet is microchipped and registered with up to date information.

• Investing in a collar and name tag, and use your surname rather than your pet’s name on name tags. Make sure to include your telephone number so you can be easily contacted if your pet is found. Your dog should always wear a collar and ID tag as this is a legal requirement when your dog is in a public place.

• Taking plenty of clear photos of your pet and remember to include any distinctive markings that could identify them.

• Not leaving your dog unattended in the garden, the car or outside shops if at all possible.

• Review your social media security settings, and be careful with the details you share, especially when it comes to your pets, your location or your favourite walking spots.

• Pay attention to your surroundings and know where your dog is at all times when out walking. Be mindful of anyone trying to distract you or draw your dog’s attention away from you. If you feel that someone is following or watching you and your dog in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, move away from them and call police.

• We know that some dogs may live in kennels outside. Please ensure you make it as hard as possible for some to break in. Use multiple locks and have CCTV cameras covering the kennel as a deterrent.

• Ensure all gates are locked at top and bottom with a shoot bolt and padlock.

• Ensure gardens and yards are secure so that no one can gain entry or pull your dog out. Make sure fences and hedges are secure, with no gaps that a dog can squeeze through.

• Consider driveway alarms and CCTV – these can act as a visual as well as a physical deterrent.

If you believe your dog has been stolen or you have concerns about suspicious behaviour, report it to us online or by calling 101.

You also need to notify your microchip database provider immediately and advise your local dog warden.

If you have information about dog theft or puppy farming and don’t feel comfortable talking to police, you can call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.