The Stroud MP's weekly column.

The theft of pets is an increasing crime in Gloucestershire and the south west. My heart went out to a family in Stroud who had a litter of puppies stolen recently.

The demand for pets has significantly gone up and many believe this has helped cause the spike in thefts.

Research by website Pets4Homes in June found a doubling of people looking to adopt a dog since this time last year. Prices have also surged. The average price being asked for dogs on the same website from March to September was £1,883 when during the same period in 2019 it was only £888, the BBC reported last week.

Fashionable breeds like Cockapoos, cocker spaniels and cavapoos have seen bigger rises and are selling for £3,000 or more. Pet owners can be faced with sophisticated organised criminals and it can happen to anybody. Dogs, in particular, can be stolen for breeding to meet this new demand or to be simply sold on. In some cases, they are stolen to be bait dogs.

I am meeting with local constituents and campaigners this week and speaking to the police to discuss what we can do locally and in Parliament to stop thefts.

It is clear to me that there are issues with the legislation and sentencing in this area of law.

While a criminal can be sent to prison for up to seven years for pet theft, custodial sentences rarely happen and the fines are not a deterrent given the new high value of puppies.

I’ve joined another MP to push these issues to the Ministry of Justice and Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs to seek change. We have already increased sentences for people who mistreat animals and tackled puppy farming. I think we should make changes here for pets and owners.

I would urge everyone to download the new free NHS contact tracing app and I’m pleased to say 10 million have done so by Sunday.