Priti Patel has been accused of failing to take the theft of pet dogs seriously despite a promise to “go after” those responsible for the crime.

The Home Secretary said in February that she was “looking at what we can do” to tackle the “absolutely shocking” crime.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request revealed the Home Office had no information on any meetings on the issue involving Ms Patel since October 2020.

But the Home Office insisted Ms Patel had discussed the situation with Cabinet colleagues and junior ministers and officials had carried out huge amounts of work on the issue.

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Liberal Democrat Tim Farron has called for Priti Patel to demonstrate she is taking dog theft seriously (Peter Byrne/PA)

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Tim Farron said: “It’s very concerning that the Home Secretary might not be treating this growing problem with the seriousness that it deserves.

“Dog theft should be a specific crime, and treated with much more gravity given that our pets are part of our families.

“I’d want the Home Secretary to show that she understands that and to give us some hope that she will take the action that dog owners are demanding.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Last month, the Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs met to discuss a cross-government approach to combating this issue and we will announce next steps in due course.

“This builds upon the huge amounts of work already undertaken by junior ministers and officials.

“Losing a much-loved family pet can cause great distress and it’s a sad fact that criminals will seek to profit by this vile crime.”

In February, Ms Patel stopped short of committing to tougher new laws but said the Home Office was “definitely looking into what kind of measures can be put in place in terms of the criminality”.

She said “this is absolutely shocking, it’s a shocking crime that is taking place”, adding that she understood in London “it’s very prevalent right now”.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA)

She told LBC Radio: “I’m looking at this, I am absolutely looking at what we can do.”

The Home Office was asked for details of meetings held by Ms Patel to discuss – in full or in part – the issue of theft of dogs or other pets since October 2020.

The FOI request also covered documentation, agendas, minutes and related correspondence.

An official Home Office reply said: “We have carried out a thorough search and we have established that the Home Office does not hold the information which you have requested.”