Hampshire police warn of 'misinformation' fueling growing alarm over dog thefts
POLICE in Hampshire have said officers are concerned about online ‘misinformation’ about dog thefts as just 10 incidents have been reported this year.
Hampshire Constabulary has been called regarding five dog thefts and five attempted dog thefts so far this year across the county.
In January, The News reported that one dog owner fought off two knife-wielding dognappers who ambushed him in Knowle village.
There has been increasing alarm on social media about attempted dog thefts and suspicious activity around dog walkers across the area since the start of the year.
But Hampshire police does not believe dog thefts are on the rise, with 22 pets returned to their owners out of 26 reported dog thefts last year, according to Inspector Korine Bishop from the rural policing team.
She said: ‘People’s concerns online are not being reflected in terms of the number of reports we are getting.
‘We want to allay people’s fears. Social media is fantastic – but sharing misinformation can cause fear.
‘Not everyone asking about a dog is going to be an attempt to take the dog.
‘I've seen posts about a massive increase in dog thefts, and when you look into the original post it was about dog thefts in Ireland.
‘We can’t police social media.’
Nationally, the charity DogLost has seen reports of thefts rise by 170 per cent in the last year from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 in 2020.
Insp Bishop said: ‘(I) really, really do urge the public that if they have information, they let us know. We need vehicle registrations and descriptions of people.
‘I would ask people not to take matters into their own hands. Anyone carrying what could be a weapon would see them committing an offence themselves.
‘Carrying a whistle could be useful.
‘Make sure your dog is microchipped, because if it is lost or stolen we can return them to their owner.
‘We’d also ask people to keep their dog on their lead. We understand dogs need to run, but keep it in sight.
‘I’d ask people to check what they are posting is factually correct.’