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Surrey Police Turn to Forensics to Fight Dog Theft

Published on: 29 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 3 Aug, 2022

By Emily Inge

Surrey Police are urging owners to register their dog’s DNA on a national database.

In a press release, they said they are turning to DNA technology in response to a “gap in the market for dog thieves and illegal breeders”, caused by the increase in demand for puppies over the last two years.

“DNA Protected”, a service from Cellmark Forensic Services (CFS) in partnership with the police, was launched in Surrey at the RHS “Walkies at Wisley” event on July 27. DNA kits can be bought online, with instructions for taking a saliva sample at home.

PC Hollie Iribar, Rural and Wildlife Crime Officer with Surrey Police, told The Dragon of the difficulties police face when a dog’s identity cannot be proven, for example, if a microchip doesn’t work, or thieves cut it out of the dog. She explained that unlike microchips, DNA cannot be altered or tampered with. She said: “Legally dog theft is treated like personal property, but cases are complex and emotionally fraught.

“In court, you have to prove factually, beyond dispute, who the dog belongs to, even where there is a clear connection between dog and owner. We need to register as many dogs as possible to take away the complexity of investigations and to deter thieves.”

The response from the public during the event was overwhelmingly positive, with many owners saying it was worth the money. Lisa Clement, who had travelled to RHS Wisley from West London said: “It is only when you have a dog that you realise they are not property but a part of the family.”

Trevor Jennings from Chessington, carrying nine-week-old puppy ‘Willow’, commented: “It’s the first time I’ve seen this, it’s brilliant. I think we will go ahead. This is a deterrent to theft and added protection should the worst happen.”

Some owners signed up during the event, including Tala’s owner Sophie Milligan, a vet. Tala seemed unperturbed by the procedure, which involved rubbing a swab on her gum to collect a saliva sample.

David Harthorne, managing director of CFS, told The Dragon they already work with police nationally to investigate crimes, commenting that it was Gloucestershire Police who first asked for help with dog DNA.

Mr Hartshorne said: “The powerful forensic DNA tools we use to identify people and investigate crime are now being used to help combat dog theft.

“The main purpose is prevention, so we include a collar tag and window stickers to let people know that your dog is on the forensic database.”

To buy a kit to register your dog, visit: DNA Protected.

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Responses to Surrey Police Turn to Forensics to Fight Dog Theft

  1. Paul Robinson Reply

    August 2, 2022 at 5:19 pm

    While not condoning dog fouling (I have two dogs myself) is this the first step towards identifying people who don’t clear up after their dogs? Will local councils have access to the database?

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