Depressingly, dog theft is currently at an all-time high. It’s estimated around 2000 dogs are stolen per year (although the real figure is thought to be much higher) with dog thefts rising by a huge 250% in the UK last year alone. Demand for breeds like dachshunds, pugs, French bulldogs and spaniels has seen prices rise to such eye-watering levels in lockdown (in some case, quadrupling) that thieves are seizing – quite literally – the opportunity while they can.
To make matters worse, many dog owners feel police are not taking the crime anywhere near seriously enough. One online petition is calling on the government to take into account the emotional turmoil involved in dog theft – and hopefully deter would-be thieves – since it’s currently treated as a ‘petty crime’ on par with mobile phone theft. The petition – which currently has 137,000 signatures and rising – is asking for dog theft to be treated as a specific offence with eight years minimum sentencing and a fine of at least £5,000. We’re firmly behind it and couldn’t agree more. Please join us in signing the petition if you believe in tougher legislation around the crime and follow our advice to keep your four-legged friend safe.
Don’t leave your dog unsupervised.
It might sound obvious, but keep an eye on your dog at all times – never leave them tied up outside a shop, even for just two minutes. Watch them when taking them to the toilet, and ensure you know where they are at all times when walking. The same goes for leaving dogs in cars – opportunists can break into a car in seconds.
Secure your house and garden.
Over half of dogs are stolen from gardens, so ask yourself how safe is your home and garden? Are there any areas – like broken gates or fences – that your dog could escape from, or that thieves might target? Consider things like security lights or cameras to put off would-be thieves.
Ensure your dog is microchipped.
It’s now a requirement that all dogs over the age of eight weeks old should be microchipped. Some dog owners make a note of this on their dog’s tag (writing, ‘I’m microchipped’). Ensure your address and phone number is updated if you move house – it’s how owners are contacted if a lost or stolen dog is found. It’s also the law that every dog in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address of the owner (a badge is also fine). Some experts recommend not putting your dog’s name on the tag – a thief who knows your dog’s name could pass the dog off as its own when selling it on.
Take detailed photos of your dog.
Most dog owners have plenty of cute dog pictures, but ensure you have photos showing any unusual markings or details that set your pup apart – and note them down. In the event your dog is lost or stolen, circulating images like this and ensuring people know what to look out for can help your dog be identified quickly.
…But avoid sharing your location.
Most of us love sharing photos of our dogs but avoid tagging your location, particularly if you go somewhere regularly. Many dogs are stolen-to-order, rather than opportunistic so it’s best to avoid being too specific about where you walk, play or live.
Do your homework.
One in three dog owners rely on dog walkers, so it’s important to do your research. If you plan on using dog-walkers, doggy daycare or kennels, check whether they are reliable and responsible. Read reviews and ensure whoever is looking after your dog knows how to take care of them. For example, it’s recommended no more than four dogs are walked at any one time.
Teach your dog good recall.
Ensuring your dog responds when it hears its name is important. If you sense danger or suspicious behaviour, it’s crucial you can call them back quickly. Some dog experts recommend teaching your dog to ‘wait’ before you say it’s OK to eat something – if dogs get in the habit of waiting for your approval before guzzling treats, it’s less likely they will be tempted by strangers beckoning them over (or worse, burglars offering poisoned food).
Be mindful of strangers asking odd questions.
As any new dog owner knows, dogs are a great talking point – and a chat in the park with a fellow dog walker is all part of the fun. But it pays to be wary of suspicious behaviour, particularly anyone photographing, filming or asking specific questions about your dog’s age, sex or health conditions (young, healthy female dogs are sometimes preferable since they have the potential to breed from).
Act quickly if the worst happens.
“If your dog is stolen, it’s crucial to act quickly and report the crime to the police, making sure your dog is correctly reported as stolen and not lost,” says Bill Lambert, Head of Health and Welfare at The Kennel Club. “Notify your microchip provider and alert your local authority dog warden if you have one, as well as nearby rescue centres and vets. Social media can also be a helpful tool to spread the word quickly. “