DOG owners across Dorset have been warned amid a rise in pet theft.

Dorset Police have issued crime prevention advice to dog owners to prevent future animal theft cases.

While nationally dog theft cases increased by 170 per cent in 2020 - reported dog theft offences in Dorset fell between 2017 and 2019 from 35 to 22 - before rising again to 26 cases last year.

Between January 1 and March 31 this year there have been four confirmed dog thefts in the county.

Chief Superintendent Mark Callaghan, of Dorset Police, said: "We understand the emotional impact that this kind of crime has on dog owners and we take reports very seriously.

"Over the last couple of years we have been able to locate stolen dogs as a result of our investigations and reunite them with owners.

"To the criminals a dog is an opportunity for easy money, but to a family or to an older person feeling lonely or isolated a dog is a treasured companion, and it's a source of huge pain if they are stolen.

"Dog theft remains relatively low in Dorset, but we're asking owners to do their bit to help protect their pets and prevent offences from occurring in the first place."

Police are urging owners to update details with the microchip company in the event of moving house or changing a phone number. Microchipping is not only a legal requirement, but is essential in helping to return pets back to their rightful owners.

Police urge victims to ask witnesses for their contact details and report missing dogs to the microchip company immediately.

David Sidwick, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: "I know both from talking to people across our county and from national surveys that this is of huge concern and although dog theft needs to be addressed.

"As Police and Crime Commissioner I'm already working on an action plan to deal with this problem, but part of the solution is to improve our awareness of how to reduce our pet’s vulnerability.

"Follow these simple steps and let’s help make it harder for our dogs to be taken."