Five dogs are being stolen every day across the UK, an investigation has found.
Research by pet insurance at Direct Line showed a 19 per cent rise of the number of dogs stolen in 2016 compared to 2014, when 1,774 dogs were reported stolen compared with 1,491.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was the most stolen breed of dog, with 634 thefts – making up 42 per cent of the total.
Prit Powar, head of pet insurance at Direct Line, said: “It is perhaps unsurprising that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the dog most often reported stolen, given it is one of the most common dog breeds in the UK.”
Designer breeds – such as miniature pugs and chihuahuas – popular with celebrities have also been targeted by thieves.
Mr Powar said: “Pedigree dog owners should be particularly vigilant as these dogs can often fetch thousands of pounds and have certain characteristics to make it easier for thieves to spot them.
“If the worst was to happen, owners should make sure they report it to the police immediately and spread the word within their local community.”
The report found the actual number of dogs stolen may be much greater than the amount of cases reported to the police, as 1.5 million adults claim they have had a dog stolen from their care in the last five years.
DogLost, an organisation that reunites owners with their missing pets, claimed more than 60 dogs are stolen every week across the UK – almost double the figure Direct Line estimated.
It suggested the figures do not represent dogs stolen from parks, gardens and streets, as owners cannot prove they have been taken, or dogs that have genuinely been lost and then found by someone who does not report it.