Ministers plan a DNA database for dogs to help tackle a surge in pet thefts during the pandemic
- New system would requires owners to supply DNA swab from their pet’s mouth
- Would be stored on a database used by police and local authority officials
- Follows rise in pet thefts during pandemic as puppy demand hit record levels
Ministers are considering plans for a DNA database for dogs to help tackle a surge in pet thefts.
A Whitehall source said there was growing interest in mimicking the National DNA Database, which has revolutionised crime fighting since its introduction in the mid-1990s.
The new system would require owners to supply a DNA swab from a pet’s mouth to be stored on a database used by police and local authority officials.
Ministers are considering plans for a DNA database for dogs to help tackle a surge in pet thefts. Picture: Stock
It follows a rise in pet thefts during the pandemic when demand for puppies drove prices to record levels.
Cocker spaniels and labradors were among thieves’ prime targets, Direct Line Pet Insurance found.
Staffordshire bull terriers were the most sought after, with 97 stolen across the UK last year. While designer dogs, such as chihuahuas and French bulldogs, were also on the hit list.
In February, Lady Gaga’s dog walker Ryan Fischer was shot in the chest in Los Angeles by thieves who took two of her French bulldogs. She offered a £359,000 reward and her pets were eventually found and returned.
DogLost, which works to reunite owners with missing pets, said dog thefts rose by up to 250 per cent in the last year. Boris Johnson is said to be ‘determined’ to tackle the scourge, which leaves families heartbroken.
Ministers rejected a bid by Labour this week to make pet theft a specific crime, arguing that it would lead to shorter sentences.
Cocker spaniels and labradors were among thieves’ prime targets, Direct Line Pet Insurance found. Picture: Stock
However, they are considering changing sentencing guidelines to make it an aggravated offence under the Theft Act. The Whitehall source said: ‘A DNA database for dogs may sound a bit daft but we might end up needing it. It is being looked at.’
Pet dogs already have to be microchipped by law. However, some dogs have health conditions which mean they cannot be microchipped, while callous thieves are increasingly cutting the chips out to make stolen pets untraceable.
The system has also been hampered by the reliance on private suppliers which have databases in different formats storing information.
Tory MP Andrew Griffith (pictured) introduced a bill on the issue this week
Tory MP Andrew Griffith introduced a bill on the issue this week, saying a national database would ‘bring joy to families and individuals, fight crime, improve biosecurity, help the UK’s leadership in animal genomics and repay the loyalty of the nation’s faithful four-legged friends.’
He added the system would have a number of other benefits, including making it possible to track down irresponsible owners who allow their dogs to foul pavements and parks.
Mr Griffith said trials by Barking and Dagenham Council in London found the problem was reduced by 60 per cent after pet owners were warned they could be traced through DNA.
Last month, Gloucestershire Police became the first force in the country to begin using DNA to tackle dog thefts.
The DNA Protected scheme enables dog owners in the county to register their pets’ DNA on a database which can be accessed by police forces across the country.
Testing company Cellmark helped to develop the scheme, charging £74.99 for a swab kit.
Chief inspector Emma MacDonald, of Gloucestershire Police, said: ‘Dog theft can have a massive impact on the owner and their families as dogs are often seen as family members and we are committed to doing all that we can to prevent dog thefts from happening.’