The Scottish Government does not hold statistics on the incidence of crimes of dog theft, as data is held only under the type of theft—for example, theft, robbery, theft by housebreaking or shoplifting—not by what is stolen.
Last year, however, the Scottish Government contacted Police Scotland, which confirmed that its internal records showed that 62 cases were recorded in 2019-20, and 88 cases in 2020-21. Police Scotland noted that around a third of those cases were recorded as domestic or ownership disputes, rather than theft for financial gain.
I thank the minister for that answer, which goes to the heart of the problem that there is a lack of robust and reliable data. That is what we need if we are to understand the true scale of this growing problem. Can the minister shed more light on the matter by providing the number of prosecutions and convictions for dog theft over the past five years?
I do not have that data with me today, but I can certainly follow that up with the member in writing. A specific offence of pet theft would of course aid in the data gathering on offending behaviour. However, careful consideration needs to be given to the creation of a different or specific offence. I know that the member is considering introducing a proposal on the issue. That risks creating a large number of very similar offences, covering different types of theft.
I would certainly agree that one theft of a dog is one too many, but I am heartened by the internal figures that I have just shared with the Parliament, showing that dog theft is not a high-volume crime in Scotland, with 88 cases being reported last year. We suspect that that figure of 88 cases—being a slight increase on the year before—is likely to have been driven by the rise in demand for puppies during the coronavirus lockdown.
I am very sympathetic to the issue that Maurice Golden has raised, and I trail the fact that my proposal for a bill on the welfare of dogs is lodged today, so it is open for signing.
Further to the response from the minister, I believe that there are eight or so microchipping companies, and every puppy in Scotland has been microchipped. Is there a possibility of combining their data into one database for traceability?