A national survey into public perception of dog theft is backed by Wiltshire and Swindon Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is reviewing the issue of pet theft and what future enforcement may look like, with potentially tougher penalties for perpetrators.
The responses to the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners (APCC) survey will help inform the discussions that PCCs will have on this issue nationally.
It will also help police forces to better understand the public’s views on this crime and how they might improve their response to these concerns.
Demand for dogs as pets has increased during the coronavirus pandemic. The cost of some puppies, on Pets4Homes, is currently as high as £3,000, making them a valuable commodity to criminals.
According to Dog Lost, the UK's largest lost and found dog service, it is estimated thefts have risen by 250 per cent, with criminal gangs involved.
Mr Macpherson is calling for residents to take part in the first national consultation on this very topical issue.
He said “As a nation of dog lovers it is no surprise pet theft, particularly dog theft, is a growing concern for the public, with fears being perpetuated further by the increase in harrowing reports in the national media we are seeing about people’s dogs being snatched by criminals.
“The maximum sentence for theft is currently seven years in prison, but two years if the goods are valued at less than £500.
“As a dog owner myself, I understand that pets are very much considered part of our families rather than being viewed simply as our property.
"This type of callous crime has a devastating impact on victims and the penalty does not seem to adequately reflect the seriousness of the crime.
“Although the number of dog thefts reported in Wiltshire is relatively small, I’m still keen to hear from local residents through this survey to help determine the level of fear of dog theft in the county.
"The results will also help provide more detail about the public’s views on the police response to dog theft and if they think more could be done to respond to their concerns to help better protect their pets.”
The 60-second survey will be open until 5pm on Friday, 12 March and can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/dogtheft