FARM livestock, dogs and even a pet hamster were among the animals stolen in Hexham and rural Tynedale in the last five years, new figures have revealed.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Hexham Courant revealed 646 animal thefts were reported to Northumbria Police across Northumberland.

Forty-two animals were reported as stolen in Hexham, Prudhoe and rural Tynedale West from 2019-2023.

The highest figures were stolen sheep in rural West Tynedale (Haltwhistle-Gilsland), which reached 21. Six were stolen in 2019, seven in 2020, one in 2021 and 2022, and six in 2023. 

The second highest figures were dogs, with a total of 10 reported stolen. Two were stolen in 2021 in Hexham, one in Prudhoe in 2019 and two in 2020. Another five were stolen in rural West Tynedale from 2019-2022.

Three chickens were reported as stolen in rural West Tynedale from 2020-2023, while one hamster was reportedly stolen in Hexham in 2022.

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An RSPCA spokesperson said: “Pet theft is devastating for owners as our animals are much-loved members of the family - so it’s really concerning to hear of reports of stolen animals in Hexham, Prudhoe and rural West Tynedale.

“Theft incidents are a reminder of why we need tougher laws to act as a real deterrent to those who carry out this crime; cracking down on those who steal people's much-loved animals.

“We were really disappointed when plans to tackle pet theft hit the buffers when the UK Government binned its Kept Animals Bill last year - but thankfully Anna Firth MP has put this issue back on the agenda and we are delighted a specific pet abduction law is now progressing through Parliament.

“Pets are members of the family - and it just isn't appropriate that stealing a cat or dog is currently treated the same in law as stealing a mobile phone or other such possessions.

“Thankfully, this Bill will change that and give more animals the recognition they deserve - while keeping the option to extend this new offence to other pets on the table too. This is so important as we seek to inspire everyone to create a better world for every animal.

“As an animal welfare charity, the RSPCA doesn’t deal directly with pet theft - leaving criminal matters such as this to the expertise of police - so we’d urge anyone who believes their pet has been taken to report the incident to police immediately.”

A National Farmers' Union spokesperson said: "Highly organised gangs of criminals have continued to plague the British countryside, stealing livestock, high-value farm machinery, as well as trespassing on private land.

“These thefts not only cause disruption to important farm work, it also places additional pressures financially and emotionally on farmers and their families. We urge our farmers to be vigilant and follow the advice and support on our website.

“The NFU has worked hard to campaign for additional resources and legislation to help the police combat rural crime and we must continue to work together on a local and national level to build a structure that will help to deter offenders. This work needs to be underpinned by solid legislation.”