Melton Dog Watch group aims to thwart thieves
A Melton Mowbray Dog Watch group is being set up following a spate of thefts of dogs across the country.
Thieves have stolen from gardens, broken into homes and even threatened owners before stealing much-loved pets.
Others have posed as RSPCA officers, with official-looking vans, or vets, to try to scam dog walkers into giving up their animals.
A major factor, it is believed, is that dog ownership has increased during the coronavirus pandemic for the last year and the price of pups has excalated significantly.
Town dog owner, Matthew O’Callaghan, is setting up the group, which he thinks is one of the first such organisations in the country, to bring together owners and share information about thefts, suspicious activity and advice on keeping pets safe and secure.
Matthew told the Melton Times: “I think it’s time to do something ourselves to combat the rise in theft of dogs.
“Obviously it’s about not leaving a dog unattended in the garden and to make sure all fences and gates are secure.
“When going out, don’t leave your dog tied up outside a shop or in a car by themselves and, if walking with a dog, watch out for dog snatchers or people who have an accomplice who try to distract you.”
There have been some recent thefts of dogs in the Melton area, including last July, when five puppies were stolen from a garden of a property off Dalby Road, prompting the owner to offer a £2,000 rewards for information leading to their return.
Matthew added: “Personally, in addition to microchipping all dogs, I think a DNA sample would be ideal as some thieves are removing the chip from stolen dogs.
“I’d also like the vet to check the ID of every dog that they’ve not seen before just to make sure it’s not stolen.
“For many a dog, it isn’t just an animal but it’s a valued member of their family and it causes real anguish when a loved pet is stolen.”
Nottinghamshire Police have become the first force to appoint a dedicated officer to focus on dog thefts after saying there had been ‘growing alarm’ among dog owners over the problem.
Leicestershire Police say recent statistics show a decline in the number of reports of dog thefts but they emphasise that officers continue to carry out enquiries into recent reports and to monitor how the crimes are affecting the force area as a whole.
Assistant Chief Constable, Julia Debenham, said: “We know these incidents are extremely distressing for owners and raise high concern among other dog owners.
“Many of us in the force are dog owners ourselves and we therefore know the important part that pets play in your family.
“Our recent work around these crimes has shown a decrease in reports made to us but our teams do still continue to carry out their work and enquiries around these crimes.”
She advised dog owners to remain vigilant and continue to protect themselves and their pets as much as they can.
They should also report any incidents to police, as well as anyone they see acting in an unusual manner, and inform officers of any adverts they see regarding dogs for sale where information is limited.
“We will continue to investigate reports and to act on information received to ensure that dogs are safely reunited with their owners and continue to work to find those responsible for these crimes,” added the assistant chief constable.
Go to www.facebook.com/Melton-Mowbray-Dog-Watch-109408137923310 to join Matthew’s new Facebook group for Melton Dog Watch.
Report dog thefts online to Leicestershire Police at www.leics.police.uk or by calling 101. You can also pass information on anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Police advice to dog owners to protect themselves and their pets:
***Keep an ID tag on your dog at all times;
***Make sure your dog is micro-chipped and their details are updated so that they can be returned if they are stolen and subsequently found. Ask your vet to check your dog’s microchip every year to ensure your details are accurate and up-to-date;
***Keep all documentation relating to your dog(s) in a safe place. Take lots of photographs of your dog from different angles, paying particular attention to any distinguishing markings on your dog. This is to prove ownership if it’s stolen;
***Never leave your dog in the garden unattended and make sure fences and gates are secure and in good repair;
***Avoid leaving dogs in an outside kennel if possible. If not possible then make sure the kennels are alarmed;
***Never leave a dog tied up and unattended, such as outside a shop, and avoid leaving your dog unattended in a car;
***When out, always know where your dog is. Remain vigilant and be mindful of anyone who may be trying to distract your attention from your dog or to attract your dog’s attention away from you.