The number of dangerous dogs seized by Derbyshire police following attacks on humans and other animals has rocketed over the past five years.
According to figures released by Derbyshire police following a Freedom of Information request, the number of incidents has risen from just over 100 in 2010, to more than 240 last year.
Police say the most recent spike is due to a change in legislation brought in during 2015 - where it became a criminal offence if a dog attacked on private land.
But the data shows a huge year-on-year increase before the law change.
In 2010, a total of 101 reported criminal incidents involving dangerous dogs in Derbyshire were recorded by police - including 36 from the Chesterfield area - with a total of eight dogs seized by police.
In 2015, a total of 241 crimes involving dangerous dogs were recorded by police, with 72 seized by officers.
Sergeant Simon Bulmer, from Derbyshire police’s dog section, said: “The law changed in 2015 with regards to dangerous dogs to include incidents that occur on private property.
“This has led to an increase in reporting.
“Since 2010 the force has invested in the number of dog legislation officers.
“We now have six officers who have provided training to staff on dangerous dogs and this has in turn increased awareness of the issue and more incidents are being dealt with.”
Between 2011 and 2014 an average of 87 criminal incidents due to attacks from dangerous dogs each year.
However, the number of dogs seized by Derbyshire police rose from seven in 2011 to 46 in 2014. The number of dangerous dogs put to sleep in the county had ranged from 10 in 2011 to 36 in 2014.
In the Chesterfield area, the number of dogs seized increased from 36 in 2010 to 99 in 2015.
Last year there was also a 20 per cent increase in the number of dogs being stolen nationally - with almost 30 pets stolen in Derbyshire, according to police figures.
But many campaigners say the figure is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ with many thefts not being reported to police.
In Derbyshire a total of 29 dogs were recorded as stolen last year - of which 11 were described as Staffordshire bull terriers.
Other high-risk breeds in the county include American bulldogs and chihuahuas - although breeds including labradors, spaniels and terriers were also reported stolen.
Many dogs are stolen to order by organised criminal gangs and then shipped abroad, while instances of dog-napping and people keeping pedigree dogs that they find straying, are also on the rise.
Many dogs are also stolen to be used as ‘bait dogs’ by dog-fighting gangs, sold to be used in animal testing, or used as breeding dogs in puppy farms.
Chairman of the Dog Theft Action charity, Sylvia Tabor, said: “For thieves, the rewards can be high and the risks low. So it’s sadly seen as easy money.
“In law, dogs are classed as property like a TV, so sentences are low for taking a living creature away from its family.
“Unfortunately, it can also often be seen as a low priority by police.”
“Staffies seem particularly high on the list as they can be used in dog fighting and as guard dogs.” In one theft, victims were faced by thugs armed with knives,” she added.
Animal charity the Blue Cross offers the following advice to owners to reduce the risk of their dog being stolen:
Think twice before leaving your dog tied up outside a shop.
Don’t leave your dog alone in the car, even for a few minutes.
Make sure your dog is micro-chipped and that you keep your contact details up-to-date, especially if you move house or change your telephone number.
Your dog should always wear a collar and ID tag with your name and address on it. This is a legal requirement when your dog is in a public place. Avoid putting your dog’s name on the disc.
Take clear photographs of your dog from various angles, and update them regularly. nMake a note of any distinguishing features.
Vary your times of walks and routes; some dogs are actually targeted and snatched during walks.
At home, make sure your garden is secure and fit a bell to the gate so you hear if anyone opens it.
Keep your dog in view in the garden, don’t just leave him outside unsupervised.
If you breed puppies for sale, take great care when inviting people in to view; ideally have someone else present and limit the numbers of people you allow in at a time.