Prosecutions of dog thieves have fallen by 70% over the last 20 years, while the number of dog thefts has risen to 1,849 in the UK alone. Dognapping is described as a "low-risk, high reward" crime, and it's an unfortunate reality dog owners should be aware of.
That is why Oakpark, a home security specialist, has written this guide on dog theft to coincide with Pet Theft Awareness Day on the 14th of February. The aim is to raise awareness of the risk of dog theft and help dog owners protect against it.
Why are dogs being stolen?
Dog thieves are mainly motivated by monetary gain. Certain breeds, often known as “designer dogs”, are targeted far more than others due to the high value placed upon them. However, criminals can make money from any dog in a variety of ways, including:
- Resale - This is one of the quickest and easiest ways for dog thieves to turn a profit from their crimes. By quickly selling stolen dogs to eager buyers who aren’t asking to many questions about the origins of their future pet. Always be a responsible pet buyer and obtain as much information as possible, including about its parents.
- Breeding - Some dog thieves steal purebred dogs to breed them in ‘puppy farms’ where they are usually kept in poor conditions. Designer dog breeds are at a higher risk of being targeted for breeding. A defense against this is to have your dog spayed or neutered so it isn’t useful for breeders.
- Rewards - This is a more creative way for dog thieves to make money from their stolen dog. This involves the thief patiently waiting for the pet’s poor owner to offer a reward for the return of their dog and then acting as if they found it to get the reward. Some criminals even go so far as to demand a ransom for the safe return of the pet.
In some countries, dogs are also stolen for their meat.
What are the common ways dogs are stolen?
Dog thieves are opportunistic and seize the chance to steal valuable dogs when they are unattended. Here are some of the more common ways thieves target dogs:
- In the park or during walks - Dog parks are a prime hunting spot for dog thieves, especially if it’s busy. Opportunistic thieves will wait for you to lose sight of your dog and take advantage of the confusion.
- From a car - Leaving a dog unattended in a car isn’t a very good idea anyway as it could cause heatstroke and possibly death. In addition, thieves won’t think twice about breaking the window and making off with your pet.
- From your backyard or garden - Don’t make the mistake of assuming your garden is safe. The Pet Census revealed that up to 52% of dogs are taken from gardens. Be especially vigilant if you have a low fence which is near a road.
- When they are tied up outside shops - You might be spotting a theme now. Leaving your pet alone in public is a great way to increase its chance of being taken. Thieves know that if they approach with a kind and friendly attitude your dog will react positively and could be led away.
Keeping your dog safe
Now that you know the common ways dog thieves operate there are some things you can do to make it harder for pet thieves to target your dog.
- Microchip your dog - It is now a legal requirement that all dogs over 8 weeks old are microchipped. This might not stop your dog from being stolen, but it will help authorities return it to you if it is found.
- Keep a good record - Take clear, high resolution pictures of your dog from multiple angles, and update them from time to time as it ages. Also make sure you are in some of these pictures, to help prove ownership.
- Don’t leave them unattended in public - As we mentioned above, the majority of dogs are stolen when they are left unattended by their owners. A simple way to prevent this is not to leave your dog alone in public, even if you are just ‘nipping into a shop’.
- Make your backyard uninviting for criminals - Does your backyard or garden have a gate? Attach a bell to it so you can hear when someone is entering or exiting.
- Include your details on their collar - It is sensible to give your dog a collar that lists your contact details so that you can be reached if it is found. But be careful not to include the dog's name; this can help dog thieves establish trust and get the dogs to come with them willingly. Also include information about microchipping and mention that the dog is neutered or spayed (whether true or not) to discourage thieves working for puppy farms.
What to do if your dog is stolen
If your dog is lost or you suspect that it is stolen it is important that you act quickly. Follow these steps:
- Report it - Report your missing dog to the dog warden. This helps them return the dog to you if it is found.
- Retrace your steps - If your dog went missing during a walk, retrace your steps and see if you can find where he went. Check local parks and ask others to keep an eye out.
- Report it to the police - If you are reasonably certain your dog has been stolen, report it to the police and get a report number. Give them as much information as possible including a physical description, pictures, microchip information, and any details of the crime. Make sure they record it as theft, not a lost animal.
- Tell the microchip database - If your dog is microchipped (and it should be), be sure to alert the microchip database of the missing dog, and alsothat your details are up to date. If anyone tries to re-register the chip number, they will alert you.
- Put up posters and use social media - Putting posters up in your local area and sharing the lost dog on social media is a great way to raise awareness and increase the chances that someone might spot your dog.
- Contact local vets and shelters - Contact all the local vets and shelters, anywhere someone might take your dog if they found it. Vets will also be aware if someone attempts to take your dog in for treatment.
The key is to act quickly and raise as much awareness as possible. This helps to make your dog "too hot to handle" for the thieves.
Have you experienced dognapping? Tell us in the comments.