POOCH-LOVING Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris joined forces with the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) for the first ever Dog Theft Awareness Day event.

The event, which aimed to raise awareness about the growing issue of dog theft, highlighted the issue and included victims of the crime, and demonstrated microchip scanning.

Mr Morris said: “Dog theft is a particularly nasty crime which causes great distress to the owners and to the dogs themselves.

"It is a rising issue in this country with hundreds of dogs being stolen every year, too often dogs that are stolen are simply reported as missing and very few are ever returned to their owners."

There have been more than 5000 reported cases of dog theft since 2011 and of these just 12 of dogs were reported to have been returned to their owners.

In the West Midlands 165 dog thefts have been reported since 2011.

He added: "At the moment there is no specific crime of dog theft and so if it does reach court, a dog which is a family member and well-loved, is treated like an object such as a TV or mobile phone and the sentence is based on monetary value."

A spokesman for SAMPA said: “The crime is largely unpunished as few cases reach court, and because dogs are regarded as goods any sentence reflects the value of the dog not the impact on the victim who has lost a member of their family.”

“Police statistics vary across the country and are simply the tip of the iceberg. They show how a force records dog theft rather than the size of the problem. He added: "Neither do they record the crime of ‘Theft by finding’ where a dog goes missing and is picked up and sold on or kept as a pet or for breeding.

"Until scanning of microchips is compulsory by vets, rescues and other authorities there can be no guarantee that a dog will be reunited with its rightful owner.”