West Yorkshire Police recorded the second highest number of dog thefts of any force in the UK, according to a new anaylsis of crime statistics.
There were 208 reported thefts across the county during 2016 compared to 71 in 2014.
We do all we can to raise awareness of the growing epidemic of dog theft.Mick Robinson, whose dog was stolen in 2015
They contributed to a total of 1,774 thefts nationwide – the equivalent of five dogs per day.
But Nik Oakley, of the rescue organisation DogLost, said the true scale is likely to be even greater as its own figures show the number was closer to 3,000.
“The figures are woefully low compared to the reality,” she told the YEP. “Until dog theft is a specific crime then these figures are never going to be accurately recorded.”
She said some owners had trouble getting the crime logged as theft if there was no evidence of a break-in as it was often suggested their dogs had escaped.
Mick Robinson, 48, has become involved in campaigning to change the law and give police more powers after his two-year-old Rottweiler was stolen.
Thieves cut through two padlocks to snatch Sky from a dog run at his home in Castleford in 2015 but left his German Shepherd, Storm, behind.
“Sky is a part of my family,” he said. “It’s not just a possession. They’re not just dogs.
“We do all we can to raise awareness of the growing epidemic of dog theft.”
Analysis of police data by Direct Line Pet Insurance found thefts had increased by 89 per cent in West Yorkshire, compared to 19 per cent nationally.
The Metropolitan Police topped the list with 231 reported thefts, a five per cent rise.
Ms Oakley said: “Dogs are being stolen for the black market but increasingly for breeding.
“Instead of being stolen from outside a shop and sold on for £50, now the thieves are scoping and wait for multiple dogs that can be used for breeding.”
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “We take all reports of theft extremely seriously and work with householders and businesses to offer crime prevention advice.”