Gundog theft is on the up, prompting the British Association for Shooting and Conservation to advise owners to be vigilant with regard to their dog's security.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed an increase in dog theft across the country, possibly driven by a growing demand for puppies as a result of the lockdown period, which has pushed up prices – and caught the attention of criminal gangs.

In 2020, dog thefts have gone up by 100% or more in the police constabularies of Devon and Cornwall, Northumbria, Leicestershire, Suffolk and Humberside. The FOI revelation is backed up with data from Dog Lost, which has seen an overall increase of 70% in reported thefts this year. Working gundog breeds such as springer spaniels and cocker spaniels are high up the list of most frequently targeted.

BASC's Gundog Theft Awareness Week, running from October 31 to November 6, aims to inform the public about the increased risk to gundogs, provide information on how to keep dogs secure – and offer advice on what to do if your dog goes missing or is thought to be stolen.

BASC’s gundog officer, Toni Paull, said: “We know that gundogs make up for a significant portion of dog theft, their high value makes them a prize target. Vigilance and additional safety measures are essential for reducing the risk.

“It is one of those instances that you don’t think it will ever happen to you until it does. Having spoken to numerous victims the trauma and pain of losing your dog to criminals is horrific. The risk of being targeted remains low but is at a concerning level.

“We urge anyone buying a dog to undertake due diligence to reduce the possibility of buying a stolen dog. For example, checking paperwork relating to the dog, meeting at the sellers’ home and cross-referencing microchip details can all be ways to lessen this risk.”