On Monday, Pet Theft Awareness Week begins in a bid to raise the profile of the continuing problem of animal theft.
Last year on March 14th, I joined forces with the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) to host the first Dog Theft Awareness Day at an event in Parliament in a bid to raise awareness of this awful crime.
Every week around 60 dogs are stolen in England and Wales, with just a tiny fraction of them being found and returned to their owners. It is a nasty crime which causes great distress to the animal and its owners. Unfortunately, the people who steal dogs are rarely caught and brought to justice.
Having contacted all police forces in the UK for information on dog theft, I found that Kent Police was one of the best forces in the country at reuniting stolen dogs with their owners.
Just last week, Kent Police found a stolen dog in the county and returned it to its owner in Sussex within 24 hours of it being taken.
At the moment there is still no specific crime for dog theft and I am continuing to lobby the Government for tougher sentencing guidelines. To that end I have applied for a number of debates on this issue and I am waiting to see if these are granted.
In addition to this, a petition, which was launched last month asking for pet theft to be reclassified as a crime in its own right, already has had more than 35,000 signatures. This illustrates the strength of feeling on the issue.
Dog theft is a cruel crime and whilst it continues, I will do all I can to highlight this issue and call for tougher sentences for the perpetrators.