Time to Stop Dog Theft

BY CHARLES GUTHRIE

Right now in the British Countryside, as well as elsewhere in the British Isles, human beings are dying from broken hearts because of the loss of their dogs to dog thieves.

This is not a joke.

People are actually dying. They are getting sick. Some poor souls go so far as to commit suicide because they feel such overwhelming guilt for the loss of their stolen dogs. Others, especially elderly victims, suffer from complications as a consequence of depression and severe stress brought on by dog theft.

This should not be happening.

As I know from personal experience, it’s horrible not knowing what’s happened to your dog. Winston was one of the family and he gets missed a hell of a lot. He was stolen from our garden. We even have the CCTV, which, albeit on video, was when we all last saw him alive. We can see the hooded evil dog thief enticing him away with some food. (I cannot write here how I feel about that man or what I would do to him if I ever met him).

At times you wonder if Winston’s been sold on and if he’s happy staying with a new family. Then there are those gloomy, dark days when you have nightmares about him having being stolen as bait for dog-fighting, which is on the rise in certain parts of Britain.

Right now this is a recurring nightmare for us. Our daughter is in her teens and now is more withdrawn; forever with her headphones on. It’s been especially hard for my twelve year old son, whose schooling and well-being has suffered since Winston was stolen. They were really very close. My son completed a list we set for him when he was six – things like learn how to tie your laces, do your own tie – and we’ll buy you a dog.

That was Winston.

Our dog was lost a year, eight months and two weeks ago. We count the days. Has Winnie been stolen for dog fighting,  exported, or sent to an illegal puppy farm where they are treated unbearably?  I still pray I’ll get blackmailed to get him back. Right now I’d do anything to reunite our family.

Instead we hear nothing. Our pain continues. Our home used to be a fun place. We daren’t move in case one day he shows up at the back gate. His food is still in the cupboard. His bed is laid out in the conservatory. Every knock on the door startles the kids. So does the landline ringing. We think Winston 24/7. He was / is such a lovely, kind-spirited doggie.

We can’t bring ourselves to buy a new dog as we’d feel we had given up. But what can we do? (I even thought about asking around at dog fights but I know that if I showed up there I’d do something I regret. Those people are neanderthals, as are the puppy farmers).

Because a dog is classified in law as no more than a chattel or possession, magistrates’ sentencing guidelines treat stealing a dog the same as stealing an old bike or a lawnmower. Starting with a conditional discharge, a ‘Band B’ fine (about £100) results in possibly 20 hours community service or 18 weeks in prison for a repeat offender. It’s a national disgrace and must be changed.

On the 27th May there was a debate in Parliament about dog theft. 8 MP’s bothered to turn up and Dominic Raab MP said nothing needs to change, that the current system works fine, and that dog thieves are being adequately punished.

Raab is a good MP. He’s a bright chap. But in this instance he’s simply not shown the necessary empathy nor thought things through sufficiently. He has not spent time with victim families like ours.

The reality is:

WE HAVE ALL HAD ENOUGH

Losing a dog is like losing a child, Mr Raab. It is that grim; that all-encompassing.

If your dog does a poo in a park and you don’t pick it up you get a £1000 fine, take it on a beach in the summer and you get a £500 fine. You accept that. If a dog is stolen it breaks the hearts of its family members forever. 20 hours community service?

This is plain wrong.

If the police bother to investigate a reported dog theft, and they don’t, they simply give you a crime number and refer you to the dog warden. Currently Dog Theft is classified as so unimportant the police simply don’t want to know. Maybe they don’t have the resources to investigate the 5 reported Dogs stolen every day. If dog theft was a proper crime then that number would be so much less.  So fewer families would be sent to living hell caused by dog theft.

The crime of Dog Theft must be re-classified so that the ‘Time fits the crime’. Dog Theft must carry a mandatory custodial sentence of at least 1 year to even begin to act as a deterrent and to raise its profile in law. Ideally, the police would then be able to investigate every reported case properly.  And these savages using dogs as bait in dog fighting can be rooted out and their dog fights terminated.

I thank Country Squire Magazine for championing this cause. I do hope that with this extra wave of support the MPs in Parliament will wake up to one of the worst causes of pain and sadness that exists in Britain today. No-one need suffer as we have done and continue to do. Winston to us is worth more than a million lawnmowers and a million bikes.

Please join us and sign this petition.

‘Dog Theft’ must be classified as a specific and serious crime.