A DOG owner has called for harsher sentencing for thefts of pets and claimed there is “no deterrent” for people looking to steal dogs.

It comes after a German Shepherd puppy was snatched from its owner on Poole Quay on Friday.

Marie Smith, 57, was exiting Tesco on Poole Quay on Friday, April 23 to return to her husband Andrew and their three-month-old German Shepherd puppy Bear.

It was at this moment, according to Marie, that Bear was snatched from Andrew's arms.

And a second dog owner, who owns a 12-year-old German Shepherd, has signed a petition for harsher punishments for the culprits of dog theft.

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The 61-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s awful because you are so nervous all the time, there’s so much of it about.

“[The theft in Poole] is just horrific, how brazen to do it in front of all those people.

“I think the police are overstretched, they can’t be everywhere, I think it has to come down to legislation, there has to be a mandatory sentence to act as a deterrent.

“I know it’s different if it’s a first offence, it’s quite complicated. We do need a deterrent, dog owners are suffering from the same thing.”

The dog owner signed a petition calling for an eight-year minimum sentence and a fine of at least £5,000 for the theft of dogs.

At the time of writing, the petition had more than 300,000 signatures.

“My dog is a prisoner, I have to keep my door locked, that is advice from the RSPCA,” she continued.

“He is a pedigree, they are stealing anything at the moment, the impact on the owners is traumatic.

“I have had my dog since he was seven weeks old. It would be really devastating, he is a family member.

“Some people say it’s like losing a child, it’s different, but there’s still that emotional distress.”

Dorset Police said an investigation was ongoing into the theft of the puppy from Poole Quay.

A spokesperson for the department for environment, food and rural affairs said: “This government takes the issue of pet theft very seriously and is concerned by suggestions that occurrences are on the rise.

“We understand the pain and distress caused by the theft of a much-loved family pet. That’s why anyone found guilty of stealing a pet faces an unlimited fine or a prison sentence.”