Figures shows that approximately 3.2 million households in the UK are proud owners of a new pet since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. In total it’s estimated that our nation of animal lovers has a staggering 17 million pet-owning homes.
The recent lockdowns have driven many people into seeking a pet in response to social isolation. However increased demand and desperation for a ‘lockdown puppy’ has caught the eye of criminal gangs. DogLost, a UK charity that helps victims of dog theft, has recorded a staggering 170% increase in dog theft, with the most sought-after breeds including cocker spaniels, springer spaniels and labradors.
Police believe there are two main types of crime, the first is opportunistic, where a dog is left unattended and is targeted. The other is more organised where breeders and people selling puppies online are the victims.
This is a problem across the country, in our area thieves were attaching cable ties to gates to identify houses where dogs live, this has now been replaced by chalk type markings on walls. In one local incident a cancer support dog was stolen – such incidents are heart-breaking and are devastating for the families involved.
We have included below a list of tips from the Dogs Trust on how owners can prevent dog theft and also what steps should be taken if your dog is stolen.
Preventing dog theft
- Make sure your garden fences are sturdy and your gates can be closed, this avoids your dog being able to escape and helps prevent easy access to trespassers. .
- Always keep your dog in sight on walks and in your garden. Train your dog to respond when called.
- Never leave a dog tied-up outside a shop or left alone in a car. If you’re going into a shop or café check if your dog can come in with you.
- Ensure your dog is microchipped, has up-to-date contact details, and is wearing a tag with your contact details.
- Have your dog spayed/neutered. This means that you pet is less likely to stray and will help prevent theft for breeding purposes.
- If you need to use a dog walker, groomer or kennel, make sure you have done your research to ensure they are reputable.
- Don’t advertise the fact you own dogs especially on social media.
- If you are a dog breeder, be careful about who is coming to your house for viewings.
What to do if your dog is stolen
In the unfortunate case that your dog is stolen, follow the advice below:
- Report the theft to the police, ensuring you get a Crime Reference number and insist that your dog is recorded as stolen and not missing.
- Report the incident to your microchip provider.
- Report the theft of your dog to your local authority dog warden.
- Report the theft to missing/stolen animal websites such as DogLost.
- Be sure you have plenty of recent pictures of you with your dog. These are useful when showing what your dog looks like and proving they belong to you.
- Social media is a fantastic way to raise awareness of your stolen pet. Post details and pictures of your dog. Make sure your settings are on Public to reach as many people as possible.
- Monitor websites and places where thieves may try to sell on your dog.
- Contact local animal centres, rescue charities and your local vet.
- Check with neighbours, local residents and fellow dog walkers, consider handing out flyers and putting up posters.
- Approach local media who could help publicise your missing dog. Our local radio station has a lost pets line.
- To explore legal options, the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to assist.