Animal thefts in south west London have almost doubled over the past five years, Met Police data shows.
Using the Metropolitan Police’s stolen animals dashboard, SWL calculated that animal thefts have increased by 97% since June 2016-17, compared with June 2020-21.
Dog theft increased 81% over this period, while cat theft increased by a staggering 325%.
This data is possibly only a snapshot of real cases, as it only includes pet thefts reported to the police.
Croydon has had the highest number of animals stolen for the past year, with 113 animals being stolen since June 2020.
Part of this is due to some large pet heists affecting the data.
For instance, Sutton had 60 goldfish stolen in one crime in April 2017.
Croydon also had 80 fish stolen in one crime in March 2021, causing the borough’s large spike in animal theft numbers for this year.
Despite these heists, the data states that dogs are the most likely pets to be stolen in south west London.
The most commons dog breeds stolen across London are Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Chihuahua, German Shepherd and Jack Russell.
Fish are the second most stolen animal, if we measure by the number of animals stolen.
If we take the number of individual crime reports into account instead, cats are the second animal most commonly reported stolen.
Other mammals apart from cats and dogs were the least likely group to be stolen, with only 34 animals being stolen over the past five years in south west London.
A survey by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) in October 2020 found that 18% of Londoners picked up a pet over the pandemic, and 13% planned to make the change.
Becky Thwaites, Blue Cross’ Head of Public Affairs explained some of the reasons behind the rise in pet theft.
She said: “The number one reason behind pet theft is because the prices for pets have gone up drastically.
“This happened exponentially over lockdown, as responsible breeders stopped breeding due to social distancing guidance, but more people were wanting pets.”
The disconnect between supply and demand means thieves are stealing and reselling pets for monetary gain, with some breeds of dogs going for thousands of pounds.
Dogs Trust estimated that the price for some of the UK’s most sought after breeds rose as much as 89%.
Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ also increased by 166% between March and August 2020.
Blue Cross has relaunched their Take the Lead campaign, calling for a reform in the laws around pet theft.
It is asking for pet theft to be treated as a specific crime, tougher sentences to reflect the severity of pet theft, and for each police force to have a specific pet theft officer.
Thwaites explained: “Every month pet theft is increasing, so we need to do something urgently to tackle this problem.
“Pet theft isn’t just losing an animal, it’s losing a part of the family.
“It’s devastating for people.”