Pictures of much-loved pets stolen from their heartbroken families are becoming all too frequent on TV and social media these days. Lockdown saw a boom in dog-ownership as many of us sought the companionship of a furry friend, and time was available to spend training a puppy. This sent the price of popular breeds rocketing. Many designer breeds are now selling for over £3000.
Unfortunately, this demand has also led to an increase in dog thefts as criminals quickly spotted the profit in stealing defenceless family pets and selling them on.
The DogLost charity recently stated on TV that there has been an increase in dog theft by 170% since lockdown began. Having a dog stolen can cause families unimaginable distress. Here's an outline of some ways you can protect yourselves and your dog(s).
Make sure your garden is secure. It's advisable to ensure that any gates or entrances are secured with locks. On the National Animal Welfare Trust website, it highlights that 50% of dog thefts are from gardens! Check there are no chalk marks near your gate.
Never leave your dog(s) out in the garden unsupervised while you're out. And even when you're at home, keep them in view.
Out and about
Be aware of your surroundings. Often thieves will look for easy targets – people distracted by their phone or children. The number of dog owners being targeted whilst out walking their dogs is increasing.
Be sure to carry your phone with you and have it easily to hand. Use an app like Hollie where you just need to shake your phone to set off an alarm and an automatic alarm call to specified contacts.
If you're able to, arrange to walk with someone else. Check your neighbourhood FB or Nextdoor page to see if other dog walkers would like to walk with you. Beware of strangers asking questions about your dog, and never tell strangers your dog's name.
Never leave your dog unattended when you're out and about – if you're popping to the shop don't tie them up outside for 'just a minute'. And don't leave them in the car on their own either. Both provide a quick opportunity for someone to grab your dog and be gone.
Vary the times and routes of your walk. If your dog is usually off-lead, check that their recall is reliable, and that they only return to you. Discourage other people from giving your dog treats, or throwing balls.
If your dog isn't already microchipped, get an appointment booked in with the vets. All puppies must be microchipped by 8 weeks by law. Keep the microchip number safe and update your details when you move house.
Take lots of photos of your dog(s) including any unusual markings.
If your dog or puppy is stolen
Act quickly – call the police immediately to notify them that your dog has been stolen and ask for a crime reference number.
Make the dog 'too hot to handle': Share photos and a clear description of your dog across Facebook and ask people to share. Post in local community Facebook groups, asking for people to be aware that your dog was stolen, to look out for it and to share as widely as possible.
Contact Doglost and give them details of your stolen pet.
Report the loss to the microchip database company. Contact your insurer to advise them of the theft and ask for what help they can offer under the terms of your policy.
Put up posters in your local area. Contact local vets to advise them of the theft, in case the dog is taken to the vet for treatment.
Advertise your dog as stolen on pet selling websites – particularly where prospective owners are looking for dogs to buy or adopt. Contact animal shelters.
Dog Lost Charity working to re-unite dogs and owners. It's a free service and very well organised
Vets get Scanning A charity set up by Debbie Matthews to ensure that all pets have their microchips scanned when registering at a vets. This helps to identify stolen pets and get them home.
Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance Facebook group working towards implementation of pet theft measures. Listings of stolen and missing pets.
Driving with Dogs - dog-friendly places to stop on long car journeys so you don't need to leave your dog in the car.