It’s no secret that lockdown has led to a rise in dog theft in the UK. Pets are at a premium with people spending more time at home and prices for dogs have more than doubled. Unfortunately there are those who try to gain from this rise in demand. Dog theft is a growing problem with around 12 dogs being stolen in the UK everyday. While we don’t want to be scared to take our dogs out of the house, we should be aware of the problem and take steps to avoid this awful outcome.
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Who is stealing dogs in the UK?
There can be a variety reasons for dog theft. It could be a dispute after a rough breakup, a professional such as a dog walker or kennel worker (claiming to have lost a dog) or an opportunist. However organised dog crime is on the rise in the UK. Some dogs may be kidnapped for baiting but much more common is dog theft for monetary gain. Pure breeds in particular can be profiled and even “stolen to order”. Some leave the country overnight and are sold off to unsuspecting new owners in Europe.
How can you protect your dog from being stolen
Never leave your dog tied up alone outside a shop or in a car, it’s like leaving your phone on show, an opportunist will take the chance.
Train your dog to come back when called, or use an extendable lead at all times to never lose sight of your pup.
Make sure your garden is secure especially if you leave your dog outside unattended. Fit a lock or bell to your gate so you can hear if anyone comes in – Your dog may not bark if it’s being fed.
Take lots of good quality photos of your dog to use if the worst should happen, make sure you have some of you and the dog if you ever need to prove ownership.
Avoid putting information online about your dog (like the “Meet My Dog Challenge”). It’s giving information to people who may use it in a negative way.
It’s a legal requirement to have your name and address on your dogs collar/ harness and to be microchipped. This can help to easily identify your dog when it’s found. But avoid putting your dogs name, as it could be used by a thief to gain the dogs trust.
How to keep your dog safe while out on a walk
Vary your times of walks and routes. It has become clear that some dogs are actually targeted and snatched during walks.
Be wary of people taking photos or asking questions about your dogs. They’re probably just a part of the Dogspotting community like me! But it could be something more sinister.
Use Carabiner clips or a lead attachment to make sure the lead can’t be pulled from your hand. Paracord or metal leads are also great as they can’t be cut by a would be dog thief.
Buy a loud whistle or personal safety alarm to draw attention if you feel threatened whilst out on a walk. It’s best not to walk alone but obviously this can’t always be helped, so make sure to walk in areas with other people close by.
Get a GPS pet tracking collar to quickly locate you dog in the event that it goes missing while out on a walk.
Use a collar light and reflective wear at night time to help keep track or your dog.
Avoid using force or pepper sprays on thieves as you could be the one who ends up with a criminal sentence. Instead use anti theft sprays that make the criminal with dye in the event of an attack.
What to do if your dog is stolen or lost
Report it to the police as soon as possible and ask for a crime reference number if it has been stolen. Dog Theft is a crime under UK law. Dog theft carries a potential sentence of up to 7 years in prison under the Theft Act 1968. There is a petition to the government to increase the sentence to 8 years, with a minimum fine of £5,000. Sign the petition here.
Report the loss/theft to the microchip database, this will ensure that if anyone tries to re-register the chip number, you will be informed.
Report it to your local vets, dog wardens and animal shelter, all dogs must be microchipped by law so they should be easy to find if they have been handed in.
Use Dog Lost’s network to search for sightings of your dog, the service is free and helps people track down their lost dogs. You can also use your own social media and put up lost dog posters.
Get in touch with the Pet Detectives or “UKPD”. An Ex-Detective Inspector in Surrey Police, Colin Butcher has 20 years of experience in tracking down missing dogs. They are the only private detective agency in the UK specialising in the recovery of stolen dogs.
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