“Gutted” Chesterfield man says police must do more after “best friend” pooch stolen

The “gutted” owner of an adorable Springer Spaniel stolen from his Stanfree home in January says police need to take dog theft “more seriously”.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 4:00 pm

Phil Littlewood’s seven-year-old pooch Lucky disappeared from his garden on January 12 while the self-employed mechanic was in his workshop on the property.

Former gun dog Lucky, who hated being indoors, “spent his life” wandering around Phil’s smallholding and sleeping in an insulated kennel.

On the day he went missing Phil’s neighbours had taken Lucky for a walk with their Alsatian, dropping him back at his owner’s home at about 4.30pm while he was still at work.

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Phil Littlewood with "best friend" lucky

However when Phil went to check on the canine about 6.30pm he was nowhere to be seen.

Desperate Phil believes Lucky, who he describes as “everybody’s best friend”, would have been quite easy to entice into the back of a passing vehicle.

A few days after the dog went missing mechanic Phil received a phone call from someone claiming to be calling from Gloucestershire, who had seen social media posts about the missing pet.

The caller told Phil he had paid £3,500 for Lucky as he wanted to breed him, however the hound was showing “no interest” in bitches presented to him so he offered to sell the dog back to Phil for the same price.

Phil Littlewood's Springer Spaniel Lucky has been missing for two months now

Distraught Phil, who does not believe he would have got Lucky back if he paid the £3,500 ransom, reported the call - over 20 minutes long - to police.

However their investigation has so far not had much success.

Phil said: “It seems like dog theft is big business - a friend of mine showed me a Labrador puppy a little while back which was being sold for £800.

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Phil Littlewood describes Lucky as "everybody's best friend"

“I don’t believe this guy paid £3,500 but Lucky’s a dog with a shooting background so you can see how a litter of six or seven pups could fetch a fortune.”

Demand for dogs has rocketed during the pandemic - pushing up the cost of some puppies from £500 to £2,000.

While it is estimated thefts have risen by 250 percent - with criminal gangs involved.

Pet theft currently comes under the Theft Act 1968 - with a maximum penalty of seven years.

Lucky, who "spent his life outdoors", slept in an insulated kennel

However it is argued that this is like lumping animals together with stolen mobiles phones or laptops.

Over 240,000 pooch-lovers have signed a petition calling on the Government to create a specific offence for dog theft, with eight years minimum sentencing and a fine of at least £5,000.

However the Government says current sentencing guidelines already take into account the emotional distress that theft of a family pet can have on owners and has already recommend higher penalties for such offences.

But Phil still believes the offence is not taken seriously enough, saying: “I’ve got feelings and so has my dog.

“He was my best friend - he never left my side. He spent all day just wandering around doing what he wanted, he was so content.

“They’ve taken him from a nice home and God knows where he is now - although it’s been two months I’m not giving up hope.

“But this is happening to so many people and for a lot of them it’s like losing a child - the police have to do more.”

Father-of-four Phil, is now advising dogwalkers - especially women and the elderly - not to walk their animals alone.

Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa, told earlier this month how he would be meeting with Derbyshire Constabulary chief constable Rachel Swan to ensure “robust action” was taken to tackle the alarming “surge” in the number of stolen pets.

In an impassioned video he said “enough is enough - this must end now”.

He added: “I will be charging the chief constable of Derbyshire to investigate the extent in Derbyshire and take robust serious action against any culprits and reported crimes in our communities.

"The maximum penalty is seven years. I want to make sure that we use the full force of the law as it stands and we make an example of people who are playing on people's emotions and their anxiety, stress and wellbeing.”

A spokesman for Derbyshire Police said: “We recognise that for dog owners the theft of a dog is akin to losing a family member and this crime is particularly upsetting.

“We take all reports of dog theft extremely seriously, and would urge anyone who has been a victim of this to report it to us as soon as possible.

“With regards to this case, an investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact us quoting reference number 21*37893.

“We are working closely with the Police and Crime Commissioner to assess the impact of the crime in our county by supporting his efforts to encourage the public to complete a national survey from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC).

“This survey is designed to understand public perception of dog theft, enforcement and the prosecution of offenders.”

You can find the survey HERE.

Anyone with information about dogs being stolen in the county is urged to contact Derbyshire Constabulary via one of the following methods:

*Facebook – send a private message to /DerbyshireConstabulary

*Twitter – direct message the contact centre on @DerPolContact

*Website – complete the online contact form www.derbyshire.police.uk/Contact-Us

*Phone – call 101.

You can also anonymously contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or by visiting www.crimestoppers-uk.org

If you have any information which could help reunite Phil with Lucky phone 07774 027676 or 07541 407312.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.