Dogs are considered property under U.K. law, while current discourses of pet ownership place canine companions as part of an extended family. This means sentences for those who steal dogs are not reflective of a dogs’ sentience and agency, rather in line with charges for those who steal a laptop or wallet. This is particularly problematic as dog theft is currently on the rise in England and Wales, leading to public calls to change the law. Recognising that a more robust analysis of dog theft crime statistics is required, we gathered dog theft data for 2015, 2016, and 2017 from 41 of 44 police forces through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. This paper uses these data to examine how dog theft crime statistics are constructed, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of these data, and categorises, maps, and measures dog theft changes temporally per police force in England and Wales. Our findings reveal there has been an increase in dog theft crimes, with 1559 in 2015, 1653 in 2016 (+6.03%), and 1842 in 2017 (+11.43%), and a decrease in court charges related to dog theft crimes, with 64 (3.97%) in 2015, 51 (3.08%) in 2016, and 39 (2.11%) in 2017. There were police force inconsistencies in recording dog theft crime, which meant some data were unusable or could not be accessed or analysed. We recommend a qualitative study to understand stakeholder perspectives of dog theft crime in different areas, and a standardised and transparent approach to recording the theft of a dog by all forces across England and Wales. This could be achieved by classifying dog theft (or pet theft more generally) as a crime in itself under the Sentencing Guidelines associated with the Theft Act 1968.
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