PET owners are being warned to be vigilant after new figures revealed dog theft is on the rise.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request undertaken by the BBC has shown an increase in dog theft across the country.

The FOI is backed up with data from Dog Lost which has seen an overall increase of 70% in reported thefts this year.

The data was also released during Gundog Theft Awareness Week.

In a bid to combat the theft rise, , the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) is urging owner vigilance.

Toni Paull, BASC’s gundog officer, said: “We know that gundogs make up for a significant portion of dog theft, their high value makes them a prize target.

"Vigilance and additional safety measures are essential for reducing the risk."

Working gundog breeds such as spring spaniels and cocker spaniels are high up the list of most frequently targeted.

Toni added: “It is one of those instances that you don’t think it will ever happen to you until it does. Having spoken to numerous victims the trauma and pain of losing your dog to criminals is horrific. The risk of being targeted remains low but is at a concerning level.

“We urge anyone buying a dog to undertake due diligence to reduce the possibility of buying a stolen dog.

"For example, checking paperwork relating to the dog, meeting at the sellers’ home and cross-referencing microchip details can all be ways to lessen this risk.”

Gundog Theft Awareness Week, from October 31 to November 6, helps inform the public about the increased risk to gundogs and provides information on keeping your dogs secure and what to do if your dog goes missing or thought stolen.