DOG owners have raised concerns across the county following reports of people attempting to steal pets.

Wiltshire Police said they have received numerous calls from members of the public wishing to report suspicious activity since they issued crime prevention advice about potential dog thieves last month.

A spokesman told the Adver: “At this stage, it seems we are dealing with reports of attempted thefts rather than dogs actually being taken, but we are carrying out detailed enquiries.

“We are liaising closely with neighbouring police forces as we believe this could be related to a small group of criminals operating through the region. “We don’t want people to panic and we wouldn’t want to worry people unnecessarily, but we would continue to urge dog owners to report suspicious activity to us via 101 or our website, and would remind everyone to be vigilant and ensure their dogs are locked inside or kept in safe and secure kennels.”

The force received a call just after 1.15pm on Friday by a dog walker in Shaw Forest. The woman was getting out of her car and was concerned that a man was looking in her vehicle.

When the walker approached the man, he struck up conversation about her dog and then left the area.

A petition has been launched online asking the government to create a specific offence for dog theft.

Some Adver readers agreed with the proposition.

Katie Dowdeswell said: “To so many people and families dogs are not just an animal or a ‘money maker’, they are part of the family.

“It would be like someone kidnapping a member of my family if this happened to me.”

Linda Holliday said: “Absolutely it should be a criminal offence. I would be heartbroken if anyone stole my boys.”

Sheree Mclane said: “Yes, a dog is not just a dog it’s part of your family they are like children I would be heartbroken if someone stole my dog so yes I definitely think it should be a criminal offence.”

Earlier this week, Liz Webster, prospective Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon has launched a campaign to crack down on dog theft in Wiltshire.

She said: “My heart breaks when I think about families whose dogs have been ripped away from them by criminals. The loss of any pet is devastating to owners, with the added trauma of not knowing what conditions the dog will end up in.

“We need a National Registration Scheme and for dog theft to be made a specific crime with a jail term. As it stands, the law sees the theft of beloved family dogs in the same light as stealing a bike or a microwave. The risk of small fines will not stop this type of organised crime.”

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