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DNA to deter would-be dog thieves

A dog having a DNA swab
Ivy demonstrates the dog DNA swab. Picture courtesy of Cellmark Forensic Services

We’re taking a lead from neighbouring Gloucestershire Police and encouraging dog owners across our policing area to protect their pets from theft by joining a doggy DNA database.

From Saturday 11 June members of the public will be able to buy a DNA testing kit, swab their dogs and have their pets’ profiles recorded on the DNA Protected national database knowing we support the initiative both for crime prevention and to help reunite stolen dogs with their owners.

If a suspected stolen dog is seized, we can check their DNA, enabling officers to identify the rightful owner and return their pet. The kits also come with house stickers and collar tags to act as a deterrent to would-be thieves.

Our lead for dog theft, PC Natalie Cosgrove, said: “People’s dogs are part of their family and we understand how distressing it is when pets are lost or stolen. The benefit of this approach is that the dog’s own DNA is the identifying factor, and this cannot be removed or altered. We’re getting the ball rolling in our area by swabbing some fire service dogs, as well as the wellbeing dogs who are available for our police officers and staff.”

Anyone unsure about swabbing their dog themselves will be able to attend one of a number of open days with their pet. These are planned to run from 10am until 4pm at:

  • Patchway Police Centre, Tuesday 19 July
  • Bridgwater Police Centre, Wednesday10 August
  • Weston-super-Mare Town Hall Police Station, Friday 19 August

The kits are available for £74.99 from Cellmark Forensic Services through the DNA Protected website. Anyone attending one of the events will benefit from a discount.

Avon Fire & Rescue Service’s Fire Investigation Dog Jet and Search and Rescue Dog Sally are due to join the scheme on Saturday 11 June.

Jet’s highly tuned sense of smell can find traces of accelerants which may have been used to deliberately start a fire, while Sally can locate live casualties in environments from open areas and woodland to collapsed structures.

Martyn Bolt with Fire Investigation Dog Jet (Image courtesy of Avon Fire & Rescue Service)

Station Manager Martyn Bolt, also Jet’s handler, said: “Not only is Jet a valued member of the Fire Investigation Team, he is also a part of the family.
 
“I’m pleased we can register Jet’s DNA at this event, as another way to keep him safe from thieves and gives us some reassurance if he were to be lost or stolen.
 
“I’d encourage any dog-owners to get their pets swabbed to give that extra layer of protection and reassurance if the worst were to happen.”

Chief Constable Sarah Crew said: As a dog owner myself, I recognise their importance as part of our families, as service dogs, in giving companionship, and in supporting our wellbeing. The theft of a beloved pet causes great distress so I’m delighted to be part of this launch to help protect our canine friends, reunite stolen dogs with their owners, deter criminals, and bring offenders to justice.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford said: “As a fellow dog-owner, I know how much our pets mean to us and the impact and even the thought of our pets being lost or stolen causes great distress for the whole family, let alone it actually happening.

“This is why I am encouraging local people across Avon and Somerset to protect their four-legged friends and join the dog DNA database so, if the worst case scenario happens, pets can be reunited with their owners.”