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Spatialities of Dog Theft: A Critical Perspective

1
School of Geography, Geology and The Environment, Keele University, Keele ST5 5BG, UK
2
School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 209; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050209
Received: 26 March 2019 / Revised: 26 April 2019 / Accepted: 29 April 2019 / Published: 30 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
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Simple Summary

Dogs are considered property under U.K. law, while owners generally regard their canine companions as family. Reports that the number of stolen dogs in England and Wales rose from 1788 in 2016 to 1909 in 2017 led to public calls to change the law. Recognising that a more robust analysis of dog theft crime statistics is required, we gathered dog theft data for 2015, 2016, and 2017 from 41 of 44 police forces. This paper examines how dog theft crime statistics are constructed, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of these data, and categorises, maps, and measures dog theft changes temporally per police force in England and Wales. Our findings reveal there has been an increase in dog theft crimes, with 1559 thefts in 2015, 1653 in 2016 (+6.03%), and 1842 in 2017 (+11.43%), and a decrease in court charges related to dog theft crimes, with 64 (3.97%) in 2015, 51 (3.08%) in 2016, and 39 (2.11%) in 2017. The actual number of dog theft crimes will be higher as three forces could not supply useable data. There is a need for a qualitative study to understand dog theft crime in different parts of the country, and a standardised approach to recording dog theft by all police forces in England and Wales. We recommend classifying dog theft (or pet theft more generally) as a crime in itself under the Sentencing Guidelines associated with the Theft Act 1968.

Abstract

Dogs are considered property under U.K. law, while current discourses of pet ownership place canine companions as part of an extended family. This means sentences for those who steal dogs are not reflective of a dogs’ sentience and agency, rather in line with charges for those who steal a laptop or wallet. This is particularly problematic as dog theft is currently on the rise in England and Wales, leading to public calls to change the law. Recognising that a more robust analysis of dog theft crime statistics is required, we gathered dog theft data for 2015, 2016, and 2017 from 41 of 44 police forces through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. This paper uses these data to examine how dog theft crime statistics are constructed, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of these data, and categorises, maps, and measures dog theft changes temporally per police force in England and Wales. Our findings reveal there has been an increase in dog theft crimes, with 1559 in 2015, 1653 in 2016 (+6.03%), and 1842 in 2017 (+11.43%), and a decrease in court charges related to dog theft crimes, with 64 (3.97%) in 2015, 51 (3.08%) in 2016, and 39 (2.11%) in 2017. There were police force inconsistencies in recording dog theft crime, which meant some data were unusable or could not be accessed or analysed. We recommend a qualitative study to understand stakeholder perspectives of dog theft crime in different areas, and a standardised and transparent approach to recording the theft of a dog by all forces across England and Wales. This could be achieved by classifying dog theft (or pet theft more generally) as a crime in itself under the Sentencing Guidelines associated with the Theft Act 1968. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog theft; pet theft; dogs; pets crime; animal geography; GIS dog theft; pet theft; dogs; pets crime; animal geography; GIS
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Allen, D.; Peacock, A.; Arathoon, J. Spatialities of Dog Theft: A Critical Perspective. Animals 2019, 9, 209.

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