Almost 200 dogs may have been stolen in Scotland last year, according to police estimates.
Figures released to the Kennel Club through freedom of information requests suggests there were 193 suspected dog thefts in 2020.
Across the UK, at least 1751 dogs were reported as stolen, although nine of the 45 police forces failed to provide figures.
The UK Government has launched a taskforce to look at the issue of dog thefts, with the Kennel Club calling for them and devolved administrations to introduce harsher punishment for the crime.
The Kennel Club’s health, welfare and breeder executive, Bill Lambert, stressed that dog theft has “devastating consequences for both the owners and the animals involved”.
Mr Lambert also lambasted the “frankly jaw-dropping” statistic that just two per cent of dog theft cases resulted in a suspect being charged, according to figures provided by 27 police forces.
He added: “Not only that but when a sentence is handed out it is often treated no more seriously than a petty crime, despite the fact that there is nothing ‘petty’ about pet theft.
“The low charge rates and the paltry sentences are an almost open invitation to criminals looking to target innocent dog owners.
“While most people will never be unfortunate enough to fall victim to this crime, those that do are left totally bereft but without a clear route to justice.
“We welcome the UK Government taking this issue seriously and hope that the taskforce can deliver meaningful change that will give greater transparency in how we report and record this crime, and deliver more proportionate sentences that treat dog theft with the seriousness it deserves.
“It’s time to see the Scottish Government step up too, for the sake of Scotland’s pets.”
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