Dartford MP Gareth Johnson has joined forces with the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) to host the first ever Dog Theft Awareness Day event.

The event, which aims to raise awareness about the growing issue of dog theft, will highlight the issue and include victims of the crime, and demonstrate microchip scanning.

Mr Johnson 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.

Mr Johnson contacted all 43 Police Forces in England and Wales to ask them for details about dog theft in each force.

He said: “Of the 34 Forces which replied, we discovered there have been more than 5000 reported cases of dog theft since 2011. Of these just 12% of dogs were reported to have been returned to their owners.

“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 any other chattel such as a TV or mobile phone and the sentence is based on monetary value.

“Dog theft is a nasty crime and causes devastation to dog owners and huge stress to the dogs themselves. I hope this event highlights this growing problem and the inability of the courts to effectively deal with this issue.”

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.  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.”

The event is being held at Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, on Tuesday, March 14 between midday and 3pm.