Having your beloved pet is almost unimaginable for pet owners, but the reality is pet theft is actually on the rise in the UK. Due to lax laws and a low conviction rate, the number of dog thefts has reached a record high.
Oakpark, a home security specialist, has written this article to raise awareness of the risks of pet theft and provide some tips on how you can protect your dog from criminals.
How are dogs being stolen?
The best way to protect yourself from pet thieves is to understand how they are stealing dogs so you know how to defend yourself and your pet. Majority of dog thieves are opportunistic and will seize any chance that presents itself. There are exceptions to this and some “designer” dog breeds might be specifically targeted due to their increased value.
- From your garden - Many dog owners mistakenly think their garden is safe and let their pets run around unobserved. However, the Pet Census estimates that 52% of stolen dogs are taken straight from gardens.
- From outside shops - A surprising number of dog owners still leave their dogs tied up outside shops whilst they pop in to do their shopping. This leaves them in a very vulnerable position and it only takes a few seconds for a criminal to steal your pet.
- From the park or during walks - Dog parks are a prime hunting spot for dog thieves who are hoping to take advantage of the confusion to steal your pet. Make sure your dog responds to your call before you let them off the lead and try to keep an eye on them as they run and play.
- From your car - Leaving your dog alone in a car is frowned upon due to the health risks involved, but in addition, thieves won’t hesitate to smash your car window and steal your pet.
The recurring theme here is your dog being left unattended in public. It is difficult to keep an eye on your dog at all times, however, try not to leave them in a vulnerable position that criminals can exploit.
Why are criminals stealing dogs?
Similar to other thieves, pet thieves want to make money from stolen dogs. There are a number of ways criminals can make money from stolen pets, such as:
- Breeding puppies - The government is clamping down on puppy farms in the UK, but there are still many in operation that forces dogs to breed in poor and crowded conditions to sell their puppies. Some criminals steal dogs to take them to these puppy farms. More expensive dog breeds are the most common targets as they provide the best profit.
- Selling stolen dogs - Other pet thieves steal dogs to quickly make a profit by selling them to irresponsible buyers who aren’t very discerning when it comes to buying their new pet. It is important that we all buy pets and animals responsibly and check their history and origin and report any suspicious sellers to the police.
- Rewards & ransom - Some criminals steal dogs with the intention to return them to their owners, but only after they have been paid. This can involve demanding a ransom be paid for the return of the dog or waiting for the distraught owner to offer a reward and then pretending to have found the “lost” dog and claiming that reward.
How to protect your dog from thieves
Once your dog has been stolen, it can be moved many miles in a short time so prevention is vital. There are a number of ways for you to minimise the risk of your dog being stolen, including:
- Microchip your dog - It is a legal requirement in the UK that all dogs over the age of 8 weeks are microchipped. This helps authorities reunite you with your dog if it is lost or stolen. Make sure you keep your contact details updated if you move or change numbers.
- Put a collar on your dog - It is also a legal requirement in the UK that dogs wear a collar in public places. By including your contact details on the dog tag authorities and members of the public can reach you if they find your dog. Avoid including the dog’s name, however, as this can be used by thieves to beckon them.
- Don’t leave your dog unattended in public - As we mentioned above leaving your dog tied up alone outside shops or in the car leaves them incredibly vulnerable and a tempting target for opportunistic thieves. Don’t leave your dogs unattended in public, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
- Be careful on walks - Receiving compliments from strangers about your dog is always a nice feeling, but be careful of anyone who asks too many questions or asks for personal information. Busy dog parks are also a great hunting spot for dog thieves, make sure your dog always returns to your call before letting it off the lead in public.
- Get your dog neutered or spayed - As we previously mentioned, some thieves want to breed from stolen dogs. Getting your dog spayed or neutered, and including this information on the collar, helps to put thieves off.
What to do if your dog is lost or stolen
If your dog is missing or you suspect that someone has stolen it is vital that you act quickly. The faster you can raise awareness of your missing pet the higher your chances of being reunited. Here are some things you can do to raise awareness of your lost dog:
- Retrace your steps – If your dog went missing during a walk then you should retrace your steps and look for clues of where they might have gone. Bring some treats and call out their name in a friendly and positive way to encourage them to come back.
- Put up posters - If you cannot find them then the next step is to raise awareness in your local area that they are missing. Put up posters in your neighbourhood and local parks to spread the word. Make sure to use an up to date photo of your dog with your contact details.
- Use social media - Social media is another great way to help raise awareness of your missing pet. There are also a number of websites where you can register your pet as missing online to help increase the chances of a stranger finding your lost pet.
- Contact local vets, rescue centres and dog wardens - It is also a good idea to contact local authorities that are involved with dogs and pets. Places like vets, rescue shelters and your local dog warden can be contacted and given your pet’s details to speed up their return if they are found or brought in.
- Contact the microchip database - It is also a good idea to tell your microchip database that your dog is missing and check that your contact details are up to date. They will also alert you if someone tries to re-register the chip number.
- Report it to the police – Finally, dog theft is a crime and if you suspect someone has stolen your dog then you should report it to the police. Help the police by giving them as much information as you can, such as a physical description of your dog, any details of the theft and its microchip number. Ask for a crime reference number so that you can keep track of the investigation.
About the author:Dan Baker is a Content Writer that works with Oakpark Group, a company that specialises in supplying home security and fire safety solutions across the UK.