Nottinghamshire Police has appointed a 'pet detective' to investigate dog thefts in the region.
Chief Inspector Amy Styles-Jones has been appointed the role, following a spike in thefts since lockdown began last year.
Amy owns three dogs herself: chihuahuas Tink, Jasper and Josie. Speaking about the new role, she explained: "As an animal lover myself I relish the prospect of ensuring we take a compassionate response to the developing situation in regards to dog theft and any animal cruelty.
"I am proud to be part of a force where such a commitment has been given."
Dognappings have surged in the last 12 months, with one study revealing they had risen 170 per cent since the pandemic, as demand for pets increased during lockdown.
Nottinghamshire's Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (DPPC) Emma Foody explained: "I'm delighted that Nottinghamshire has become the first force in the country to appoint a dog theft lead.
"There is growing alarm - both locally and nationally - over the threat of dog theft. This has been fuelled by a number of distressing incidents which have eroded public confidence.
"I'm incredibly grateful for the support of Guide Dogs for the Blind in helping us highlight how serious this issue is. I'm keen to work with other organisations to do whatever we can to prevent dog theft in the future and disrupt the lucrative market that has emerged during the national lockdowns.
"As a dog owner myself, I know just how worrying this issue is, and I'm determined to fight for tougher penalties for those involved in this despicable crime."
Last month, home secretary Priti Patel explained she was looking at tougher measures for pet thefts.
In October last year, the issue of making pet theft a specific offence was debated by MPs, after 300,000 people signed a petition. The calls for change come after the Kennel Club revealed less than five per cent of cases result in a criminal conviction.
Nottinghamshire's Chief Constable Craig Guildford said the appointment of a dedicated dog theft lead showed the force took the issue seriously.
"Firstly, it's important to reassure local residents that we have not seen a significant spike in dog theft in Nottinghamshire," he said.
"However, we obviously want to keep it that way, and give our dog owners confidence that we are taking the matter seriously.
"That's why I felt it was important to have a senior officer to lead on this. We want to prevent dogs being stolen in the first place, with the heartbreaking stress and trauma this causes the owners, and will be working hard to spread those messages.
"Secondly I want to send a clear message to those who seek to carry out this cold-hearted crime that it will not be tolerated. It is taken very seriously and we will come after you."
Meanwhile, Tim Stafford, director of canine affairs at Guide Dogs, added: "Stealing a dog is not the same as stealing someone's television, despite the law seeing it this way. The theft of a dog is much more like the loss of a loved family member.
"What's more, blind and visually impaired people rely on their guide dogs for their independence and wellbeing. A huge investment of love, time and money over many years has gone into creating each of our incredible guide dog partnerships.
"This year, for the first time, we have been informed of a couple of incidents when someone has attempted to take a guide dog from its owner.
"While such incidents are very rare in relation to how many guide dog partnerships our charity supports, we are concerned about how fearful our guide dog owners are of being a potential target at the moment.
"The law needs to change to stop dog theft from being a low-risk, high-reward crime, and better reflect how people value their dogs."
This is certainly a step in the right direction!
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