I FIRMLY believe there are two types of people in the world – those who like cats and those who like dogs and seldom, if ever, do the twain meet.

I am firmly in the cat camp. I’ve had my own cats in the past and for the past six or seven months I’ve been fostering two elderly cats while their owner moved.

They’ve gone now but my house feels empty without them.

Dogs, on the other hand, are not my thing at all. I don’t like them and I don’t trust them.

The words ‘he won’t hurt you, he just wants to play’ send a shiver of fear through me.

And yes, I can trace the reason for my antipathy directly to when I was a small boy. This was back in the day when dogs were allowed to roam free on the streets and one of the mutts in my neighbourhood thought it was jolly good fun to chase me (and bite me) every time I got within 50 yards.

I used to have to take the long way round if my mum sent me on an errand to the shops. That dog made my life a misery for years.

There were no tears from me when it finally lost an argument with a Morris Oxford.

But while I wouldn’t give a dog house room, I don’t wish any harm on dogs.

As long as they keep their distance from me I am willing to concede they have their place.

In fact, I would go so far as to accept that for a lot of people, a dog is a much-loved and irreplaceable companion.

Which brings me to dogs and the pandemic. According to research by the Kennel Club, the coronavirus crisis has led to a surge in puppy ownership across the UK. Two thirds of those surveyed said their new puppy was a ‘lifeline in lockdown’ while 41 per cent of those who bought a puppy during the pandemic did so because they wanted a companion.

So it’s fair to say the demand for dogs has gone up beyond all expectations. And where there’s demand, the criminals are not far behind. In many ways, it’s hardly surprising given that the price of a golden retriever on the open market is now almost £3,500 and a goldendoodle is said to be the fifth most desirable breed during lockdown, with puppy prices averaging almost £3,000.

And it looks like the criminals are becoming increasingly organised. There are reports from the west of Warrington (I assume it’s happening in other parts of the town) of dognappers scouring neighbourhoods for dogs to steal.

Apparently the ‘scouts’ have a system of indicating likely targets by using chalk marks on walls and cable ties to indicate the best entry point for into a property.

And it looks like they are becoming more and more brazen in their attempts to steal dogs. Police are investigating reports of ‘suspicious men’ attending kennels and dogs’ homes .

A white van is said to have attended Cheshire Dogs' Home and the Dogs Pad Kennels in Grappenhall on three occasions.

Two men who arrived at the sites in the vehicles arose suspicions among staff, who contacted police.

So what’s to be done? Well, the first thing you can do is stop posting Instagram pictures of your pets.

“The advice I would give from a police perspective is be aware of social media,” said Det Supt Neil Austin from the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s acquisitive crime unit. “People share pictures of their dogs and puppies on social media and very often haven’t got their privacy settings set correctly.”

And the second thing is you can stop worrying because Home Secretary Priti Patel is on the case. In February, Ms Patel confirmed that the Home Office is “definitely looking into what kind of measures can be put in place in terms of the criminality” and “what we might be able to do in laws to absolutely go after these individuals that are stealing pets and making money out of this. This is absolutely shocking, it’s a shocking crime that is taking place.”

That’s good. We can all sleep easier in our beds (or dog baskets) now Ms Patel has taken charge.