It’s the crime that sparks heartache and fear in pet owners across the country.
And thanks to more people wanting to become dog owners, heartless criminals are cashing in on the demand, with thefts rising by 170 per cent since the start of the first lockdown.
While some are ruthlessly snatched to become puppy breeding machines, others are sold on to unsuspecting new owners who are unaware of their past.
But campaigners say many stolen dogs could be reunited with their families if a loophole in the law was closed down.
While it is a legal obligation to microchip and register dogs by the time they are eight weeks old, vets are under no obligation to check the chip of pets they treat.
Even if they do, some pet thieves have been known to change registration details and leave no trace of the previous owner.
Debbie Matthews, Sir Bruce Forsyth’s daughter, is leading a campaign for this loophole to be addressed, called Fern’s Law – named after the stolen dog who was missing for six years and later picked up as stray.
Fern’s Law asks for vets to scan all dogs and cats when they are first registered at a vets and at annual check-ups to help reunite missing and stolen pets. It is also campaigning to ensure there is only ever one microchip number given to animals on one database and that any dead or injured pets are also scanned.
Around 60,000 people have already added their name to a petition.
In January, Summer, a Maltese white, was reunited with her owners after she was stolen in November in Romford, East London, and sold.
Her new owner had no idea about the theft but thanks to a thorough vet, who scanned her, he was able to track down family through the microchipping database.
To add your name to the petition go to change.org and then search for “pet microchip”.