THORNBURY and Yate MP Luke Hall has met with an animal welfare group as part of their first dog theft awareness day.

The event started by the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) aims to highlight the growing issue of dog theft, which data suggests is on the rise.

Since 2001, in the Avon and Somerset policing area alone, there have been more than 200 reported dog thefts.

Mr Hall said: “As a proud dog owner myself, I understand how cruel a crime dog theft is, and the distress it can cause to the victims.

“I fully support the work being done by SAMPA to raise recognition of this awful crime.”

A spokesman for SAMPA said: “The crime is largely unpunished as few cases reach court, and because dogs are regarded as goods any sentence reflects the value of the dog not the impact on the victim who has lost a member of their family.

“Police statistics vary across the country and are simply the tip of the iceberg. They show how a force records dog theft rather than the size of the problem.

“Neither do they record the crime of ‘Theft by finding’ where a dog goes missing and is picked up and sold on or kept as a pet or for breeding.

"Until scanning of microchips is compulsory by vets, rescues and other authorities there can be no guarantee that a dog will be reunited with its rightful owner.”