New 'Neighbourhood Watch' style group launched to tackle dog thefts in Mansfield and Ashfield
With dog thefts on the rise in Nottinghamshire and across the country during the pandemic, owners in Mansfield and Ashfield are taking steps to protect themselves and their furry friends in a bid to thwart callous thieves.
For a new Neighbourhood Watch-style Facebook group has been launched to educate owners about preventing dog thefts – and has already gained more than 2,000 members in just three weeks, as well as the backing of MPs Ben Bradley and Lee Anderson.
The group – ‘DogHorn’ – Mansfield & Ashfield’ – has been set up by Emma Dallman in response to the worrying increase in dog thefts and attempts in the area.
Since setting it up, she has been inundated with member requests and the group is now sharing ways in which owners can keep their dogs safe.
Emma, 30, said: “I started the group when me and a friend were brainstorming ideas of how we can help this awful situation, when we saw the DogHorn Campaign on Facebook and thought it was a great place to start building a 'neighbourhood watch' style presence in the community to share information and help deter thieves.
"My dog is like my child, he's a cherished member of the family and life wouldn't be the same without him.”
The non-profit DogHorn.uk campaign was the brainchild of dog owner Nigel King after a friend’s young female springer spaniel vanished in November.
His campaign has received millions of viewers and participants since its launch in December.
“Each DogHorn group creates a local Facebook group for owners to connect with each other, learn more, receive warnings and find safer ways and places to walk,” said Nigel.
"The DogHorn ethos is about teaching dog owners to have more control during or immediately after theft, rather than having to leave it to others such as the police, dog wardens or lost and found dog groups to recover a dog.
"It also educates to avoid owners getting into dangerous situations with thieves during the point of theft, by ensuring they do not react without care for their own safety.
“DogHorn has a code of practice that uses sound, visibility and teamwork to help prevent theft, thwart an attempted theft and increase the possibility of recovering a dog in the minutes after a theft.
“The DogHorn Yellow Lanyard Campaign, with its particular whistle and code of action, represents the core of the campaign – like the policeman of yesteryear with his whistle and ability to raise assistance from a single blast and shout of ‘stop that thief!’, this simple old school method has been developed into a modern concept that has a universal appeal for dog owners.”
The group has also received the backing of Mr Bradley and Mr Anderson, MPs for Mansfield and Ashfield respectively, who are dog owners themselves.
Mr Bradley, who joined the group last week, said: “I know residents are concerned about rising levels of pet theft across Nottinghamshire, and as local MPs we've been raising this on Parliament too.
"It’s great to see communities pulling together and helping each other with advice and support on issues like this, so thank you to those organising things like Facebook groups and advice pages.
"It all helps!”
Mr Anderson raised the issue about sentences for dog theft in Parliament last week and has also joined the group.
Describing his dog as his ‘best friend’, he wants the punishment to fit the crime and welcomed the new group to help increase awareness.
He said: “The DogHorn group is a sign of the times as we see the value of dogs soaring due to the pandemic.
"A dog is not just an animal we feed, walk and look after – it is much more.
"A dog to many of us is a family member who provides us with unconditional love.
"I cannot imagine the stress and upset that people are going through that have had their pets stolen and I will do all I can to shine a light on these terrible crimes and hope that our legal system starts to get much tougher on the perpetrators.
“Just last week over 80 stolen dogs were found at a travellers site in Ipswich and I really hope these people are sent to jail for as long as possible.”
The new group also coincides with the news that Nottinghamshire Police has become the first force in the country to appoint a dog theft lead.
Chief Inspr Amy Styles-Jones says she understands how dogs are a key part of the family for many people and having one taken can have a devastating impact on a household.
The newly-promoted officer, who has three pet pooches of her own, has now taken up the first police role of its kind in the country and will take a strategic overview of dog thefts and mistreatment in the county.
"I'm really excited to take on this role which gives a great opportunity to understand what has been a really serious issue nationally over the last 12 months and I want to ensure we put our resources in the right places within force to make sure it doesn't become a local issue,” said Chief Insp Styles-Jones.
"I understand that for many people your dogs are part of your family and Nottinghamshire Police understands that as well which is why we are the first force in the country to appoint a lead for this type of crime.
"I want to reassure people that if you want to report any concerns about your dogs being stolen we will take that seriously.
"I also want to make it clear to anybody involved in dog theft or the mistreatment of animals that it will not be tolerated."
For more information on ‘DogHorn’ – Mansfield & Ashfield, check out its Facebook group.