The facts about pet theft in the UK

Dog theft in the UK is a rising issue and dognapping is one of our country’s fastest growing crimes. The first Pet Theft Census published in November 2013 reveals that five dogs are stolen in the UK every day.

Currently, the theft of a dog is treated the same as theft of any possession, meaning sanctions and investigations are limited and police action can be insufficient. Out of every stolen dog, only 50% are reunited with their owners.

There are many reasons why dog theft is on the rise, with the most popular being the increase in puppy farms and illegal breeding programmes. Pedigree dogs are most at risk for this reason, and popular breeds can be sold on the black market for up to £16,000. The most common stolen breeds are the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Labradors, Spaniels, German Shepard’s, Chihuahuas and Bulldogs – all having varying reasons as to why they are a target.

Dog fighting and baiting can influence members to search for vulnerable dogs to participate in this illegal sport. Many being organised gangs, who team up and dognap victims that have been monitored for weeks. These gangs tend to watch a household to see their daily routine, and then strike when the dog is let into the garden, or the family goes out. 52% of dogs stolen are taken from their own back gardens and 19% from their homes. Gate locks, security lights and CCTV can all be helpful deterrents, meanwhile it is always best to supervise any dog while outside in the garden.

In recent news many people would have seen the uplifting story about Belle the spaniel, being reunited with her owners after being missing for 122 days. She was found 133 miles from her home, and was identified by her microchip. This proves the massive importance to get dogs chipped, and keep their information up to date. One day it could be the reason you are reunited with a lost or stolen dog.

Belle’s story also urges us to raise awareness of dog safety when out and about. Belle was stolen 40 seconds after she was left outside a Tesco store, something that could have been very easily prevented. Dogs that are left unsupervised outside shops are an easy target for dog thieves, and Belle is not the first one to go missing as a result with 7% of stolen dogs being taken from shops.  It is advised to never leave your dog tied up alone.

Many owners also see their dogs being stolen from popular walking areas and carparks. Often turning round from their cars to no longer see their dog standing there. Owners should be aware of their surroundings, and any suspicious vans, persons or fellow ‘dog walkers’ should be kept a close eye on. A good way to ensure your dog’s safety when out on a walk is to simply keep them within sight at all times, and if ever you need to turn your back on them – pop them on a lead.

If you are a breeder, or own a popular and pricey breed be careful about sharing information to others. Knowing that you have a litter of puppies at home or that your dog is worth a lot can reach the wrong people and end up making you a vulnerable target.

Here are some tips to sum up how you can avoid dog theft:

  • Get your pet’s microchipped, and keep all information correct.
  • Collar tags should be worn at all times if possible.
  • Keep houses, gardens and gates secure.
  • Never leave dogs tied up outside shops unattended.
  • Ensure they are in sight at all times on walks.
  • Keep sensitive information to yourself.

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