A dog owner has revealed the frightening experience of fending off thieves who tried to snatch her pet while out on a walk.
There has been a reported 170% rise in dog thefts in the last year, which has meant that some owners are no longer walking their dogs in public for fear of them being stolen.
Leanne Lewis, from Cardiff, literally had to fight off an attacker while out on a walk.
“There was a guy hiding behind a car, tried to grab the dog, then I ran up to the guy to try and take a photo of him,” she said.
“He went to punch me. I started chasing him then he jumped in the car and almost ran me over”.
Leanne says that she is now worried about walking her dog, and opts to use the garden and hallway instead.
Another woman, who didn’t want to be named, said she’s so concerned about her dog being stolen, she hasn’t walked it for three months
“I’ve never been so frightened in my life. I’ve never had a problem before but the thought of her being stolen from me terrifies me.
“I’m not being paranoid. It’s actually happening”
Mariella Savage, a vet, said that a lack of exercise for dogs is causing serious health problems.
“Its only when owners start taking their dogs out more they say, ‘Wow my dog is a very different dog now’,” she said.
“We’re seeing so much obesity. It’s estimated that over half of the UK pet population are obese and I think it’s definitely more than that (now), which obviously has its own health complications.
“It is a struggle at the moment for the veterinary profession.”
She also said that a lack of exercise can lead to dogs becoming aggressive: “We’re now seeing them more boisterous and less well socialised which can lead to aggression.”
Wendy Andrew is a pet bereavement councilor who said that this level of fear is preventing people from living their life: “They’re depriving their pet of exercise and socialisation as well”
She described a “cycle of negative thinking” for owners. She recommends people apply a ‘TLC’ rule whereby you ask ‘Is it true, is it logical, is it constructive?’
“The answer here would be no,” she said.
“I’m heartbroken that these beautiful living beings are being treated as a commodity.”
Former police officer Sian Smith, who runs a kennel in Pembrokeshire, said that sanctions for dog thieves are not tough enough.
“The maximum is a 6 month sentence,” she said.
“It’s just classed as theft. So, it would be the same as if you pinched a couple of cans of beer in a supermarket. The sentence should be far higher.”
South Wales Police and the RSPCA are advising people to walk their dogs in pairs and report any suspicious behaviour.