The appeal came from Chief Constable Jo Shiner, of Sussex Police, during a performance and accountability meeting with Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.
While discussing the number of dog thefts in the county, Ms Shiner said it was ‘incredibly important’ for people to do all they could to prevent their dogs from being stolen.
She added: “Please, please do not leave your dog tied up outside a shop unattended. We’re still seeing that on numerous occasions. It’s the easiest way of your dog getting stolen.”
While stressing that the police did take dog theft seriously, she added that it was important to look at the facts when it came to the numbers involved.
Since New Year, 13 thefts have been reported in Sussex – but five of those were part of a dispute over ownership and hadn’t actually been stolen.
Three were reported stolen but were actually lost and one was the subject of a payment dispute.
Ms Shiner said only four of the reports actually involved stolen dogs and all were being investigated.
She said: “I completely and utterly understand, as an avid dog lover, just how much dogs mean to families.
“They are absolutely a part of the family so I completely understand the emotion and the concern that people have had around this.”
She added: “Dog thefts are low in Sussex. What I don’t want to do is to appear that we are trying to record as few as possible dog thefts – we’re absolutely not.
“It’s why we set up Op Collar.”
Op Collar is led by the Rural Crime Team, who work to gather intelligence about dog thefts and highlight crime prevention among the dog-owning community.
The advice includes: making sure your pet is microchipped and that the information on that microchip is up-to-date, making sure your dog has a collar and name tag containing the appropriate information.
If your dog does go missing, share the details on social media as soon as possible. Remember to include any distinguishing marks or colouring which will help prove the dog is yours.