Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given his backing to a pet theft taskforce to tackle anyone who is “malicious” enough to steal a dog.

There has been a spike of dog thefts in recent months across the nation, as Hertfordshire Constabulary have recovered 27 stolen dogs this year and three arrests.

Despite being a nationwide problem - with a 19 per cent increase of stolen dogs in Britain compared to last year - there have been several worrying thefts near Watford.

Mr Johnson said that while some people may think a surge in dog thefts during the pandemic as just a “second order” offence, it actually can cause “huge pain and grief to the victims”.

In an article in the Mail on Sunday, he wrote: “At present this crime is far too often dismissed as relatively trivial – on a par, say, with shoplifting” but Mr Johnson disagrees with this view.

The Prime Minister added: “If you are cynical and nasty enough to steal a dog, in an organised gang, then you will almost certainly be party to other types of crime as well.

“This is a fight that can be won.”

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has set up a pet theft taskforce to deal properly with the surge of thefts.

Gerald McCarthy, 69, who lives in Croxley Green had his six-year-old Chihuahua called Molly stolen from a communal garden outside his flat in Grove Crescent on March 18.

Molly the dog was stolen in March

Molly the dog was stolen in March

After placing flyers around the area, he in return was maliciously contacted from an unknown caller demanding for money in return for his dog and threatening to harm both the owner and Molly.

Another attempted theft in Apsley saw two twelve-year-old boys taken into custody after they picked up a Shih Tzu puppy and removed the lead while the owner was walking the dog.

Organisation DogLost has warned of a spike in dog thefts because it is a “low risk and high reward” crime – adding that thieves will sell them on to unsuspecting buyers, hold for a reward, or use them for breeding.

Inspector Nicki Dean, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Crime Reduction Unit said: “Concerns have increased around dog thefts during lockdown as the demand for pets has grown.

“Whilst thefts in Hertfordshire have remained relatively low, across the country there has been growing concerns over the theft of dogs from homes and breeders kennels.

“Dog owners should join Hertfordshire’s Neighbourhood Watch to get all the latest alerts and crime prevention advice

“There are simple steps you can take to keep your pet safe, such as never leaving your dog unattended when out and making areas at home your dog can access secure.”