The number of dog thefts in south west London has almost doubled since 2016, new data has revealed.
A Freedom of Information request from money.co.uk has shown the number of dog thefts totalled 96 in 2020 across south west London, up from 49 in 2016.
Croydon saw the most thefts in the whole of London within this period, totalling 71, including 20 in the last year alone.
According to Animal Rescue Care trustee Karen Hide, the rising figures are a cause for concern.
She said: “The figures are absolutely shocking, especially as behind each figure there is a frightened dog whose world has been turned upside down and devastated owners.
“I would certainly support a very severe punishment for dog thieves. I would lock them away and throw away the key as not only do they terrify a poor dog and put it under terrible stress, but they also traumatise the whole family that owned that dog and cause untold heartbreak.”
The data also revealed that Richmond was the only south west London borough which saw a reduction in the number of reported dog thefts, with seven in 2020, down from nine in 2016.
Moreover, whilst Croydon has the highest number of thefts across London, and Lambeth is seventh highest with 53, the four lowest boroughs for dog thefts are also in the south west.
For Hide, implementing a national registration scheme would help to significantly reduce this growing problem within the capital.
She said: “A national registration scheme that is compulsory would be helpful and it should also be enforceable in law. Owners should have a legal obligation to register their dog and to keep that registration up to date.
“I also think it would be a good idea for all vets to scan a dog that is brought into the surgery to check it is registered to the person bringing it into the surgery.
“I know many vets do check microchips to ensure they are actually working but it would be great if they could also easily check a database of stolen dogs.”
Although preventing dog theft is undeniably difficult, Hide has a number of useful tips for worried owners.
She added: “I would advise owners to always have their dog microchipped as soon as they get it, to also put a collar and tag on the dog and to keep their dog under close control when out on walks.
“It would probably be sensible to walk in busy places if at all possible where you can be out in the open and not close to where someone can park a car, grab your dog and whip it away at speed. I have also heard people suggesting that it is a good idea to vary the time and destination of walks so your behaviour, as the dog owner, is unpredictable.”