NEW figures have revealed a massive increase in dog theft in the Dyfed-Powys Police force area last year.

A missing pets charity has said that the increase in dog thefts across the UK is linked to the coronavirus pandemic and warned new owners might accidentally be buying stolen dogs.

Reports of dog theft in the Dyfed-Powys force area more than doubled in 2021, from 33 the previous year to 82.

Freedom of Information request from Direct Line Pet Insurance shows that this is the highest number since the company's records began in 2015.

The force area saw the highest rate of stolen canines last year, with 36 incidents per 100,000 households.

Across the UK, 2,077 dogs were reported stolen to 35 police forces which responded to the FOI request – though Direct Line estimates the real figure to be as high as 2,760.

This estimate was up from 2,438 in 2020 and the highest number since their records began in 2015.

Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse for Direct Line said: “The increase in dog ownership since the pandemic began and the subsequent rise in prices of these animals seems to make the crime even more appealing to thieves."

She said dog owners should take precautions such as keeping their pets on a lead when in busy areas and avoiding leaving a dog tied up outside a shop or in an empty car.

Along with an increase in thefts across the UK, the proportion of pooches returned to their owners also rose last year, to 22 percent.

In Dyfed-Powys, 13 of 82 dogs were returned last year.

The Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance said the demand for dogs during lockdown caused a ‘huge spike’ in them being stolen for breeding, with their value also increasing.

Debbie Matthews, chief executive of the charity, said: "Dogs were also essentially being stolen ‘to order’ for people who would never know that they were receiving a stolen dog.

"We would always recommend that a new owner gets the pet’s microchip registration checked as soon as possible."