Can you imagine how it feels to lose your dog? To lose your best friend and constant companion, would be sickening. Now imagine that your dog has been cruelly stolen from you in a wicked act of theft. It makes me so angry, but sadly pet theft is an increasing reality and owners need to be prepared to prevent dog theft.
Pet theft in the UK
2020 saw a sharp rise in demand for puppies, and the cost of popular breeds soared as a result. Criminals spotted a new opportunity to make money and are now targeting dog owners across the UK. A BBC FOI request made in Oct 2020 revealed that at least 5 Police Forces saw reports of dog thefts double, with Suffolk seeing a 250% increase in reports. Many dogs are quickly sold on for an easy profit, whilst others are used for breeding to farm more puppies to sell. A small number may be used for dog fighting. Sadly, only around 22% of stolen dogs are reunited with their owners. (Source, Kennel Club.)
The majority of dogs are stolen directly from homes or gardens, where a dog may be targeted as a desirable breed. Tragically in some cases, whole litters of puppies and the breeding bitch had been taken in one fell swoop. Others are opportunistically taken whilst unattended outside shops or left in vehicles. Approximately 11% of dogs are stolen from owners whilst out walking. This is a potentially frightening and dangerous encounter. So how can we protect ourselves?
Dog theft prevention
Being alert and vigilant is the first step to take in order to prevent a dog theft. Be aware of your surroundings and take notice of the people around you. Dog thieves don’t usually have another dog with them, so be wary of strangers without dogs taking a friendly interest in your pet and don’t divulge information about him or her. If your dog is a friendly, approachable type, get them on a short lead asap and walk away in order to create some distance. Your aim at this point is to deter a would-be thief by making their job too difficult.
It is also useful to have one or two items on your person which increases the risk for the would-be dognapper, such as a whistle carried around your neck (worn visible outside your clothing to show you are prepared), a personal alarm and a deterrent spray (such as FarbGel). It is important to keep these items within easy reach in an unzipped outer pocket as you will lose vital time rummaging through a bag.
If a suspicious person continues to follow you, show that you are ready to use these items. Place the whistle in your mouth and hold the alarm or deterrent spray in your hand too. (You could also raise your hand and shout ‘STOP!’) At this point, the thief will decide to either back off or continue their attempt. If this happens, blow your whistle AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE to draw attention. The sound of the whistle will carry further and higher than your voice alone and is an effective alert. If you have a dye deterrent spray, spray it on the thief and your dog because this makes your dog easily identifiable. Therefore the thief is more likely to release the dog.
What happens if my dog is stolen?
Report any case of theft or attempted theft to the Police. Make sure your dogs microchip details are up to date and inform the microchip service database that your pet was stolen (your vet may be able to help with this) and keep your details updated because this will help ensure that you are reunited with your dog if they are found. You could also get in touch with organisations such as Dog Lost who can help with posters and national social media campaigns to make your dog too hot to handle.
Tips to prevent dog theft:
- Vary your dog walking routine. Thieves monitor areas scouting for opportunities, so don’t do the same walk at the same time every day.
- Walk in pairs or groups where possible.
- Stay alert by turning off your iPod etc and focus on your dog and surroundings.
- Carry a whistle, deterrent spray or personal alarm to use if necessary.
- Keep your dog close – If your dog is a ‘greet everybody’ type, call them away from strangers, put them on a lead and create distance between yourself and any suspicious stranger. (Alternatively, if your dog is the type who runs around off lead with no recall it may be better to set them loose to make them harder for a would-be thief to catch!)
- Never leave your dog unattended in a car, outside shops or in gardens.
- Don’t share details about your dog with strangers or share pictures of them on social media with identifiable location tags.
- If someone tries to take your dog, attract attention by shouting and blowing your whistle or sounding your alarm.
- Share suspicious activity in local dog walking groups and report any incidents to Police asap.
Please remember that the fear of crime is always higher than the probability of being a victim of crime. I want everyone to continue enjoying their walks with confidence, knowing what to do if an incident occurs. Some of these tips are fairly basic safety precautions generally worth reminding ourselves of. For example, if you injure yourself whilst walking a whistle will help people to locate and come to your aid! Furthermore, we don’t generally stand around talking to strangers but in the presence of animals we often let our guard down. I hope that by being alert, dog focused and aware, you will both have a more enjoyable walk together.
Be on GUARD against dog theft:
GROUP – Where possible, walk in groups or pairs and share any concerning info with your local dog walking community.
UNATTENDED – Keep your eyes on your dog and never leave them unattended.
ALERT – Be alert to your surroundings and others around you.
ROUTINE – Vary your routine by avoiding the same route at the same time every day.
DRAW ATTENTION – Be visible & draw attention by making noise (shout or blow a whistle)!
Stay safe everypawdy,
Julie & Bosun the Boxer