Our dogs are a huge part of our lives and a beloved member of the family. It's heart-breaking when they go missing, especially if they are stolen from us.
It's becoming more important to safeguard our dogs from rising dog thefts due to the pandemic. Sadly, thieves target our four-legged friends to make quick money by selling them or to claim any rewards.
In this guide, we explain ways that you can keep your dog safe from dog-nappers. The risk of a dog being stolen is still low across the UK. For instance, MORE THAN claims data showed only 3 cases of dog theft reported between January 2020 to June 2021.*
Are dog thefts increasing?
The stats seem to suggest that as the demand for new puppies grew during lockdown, dog thefts became more common. The Kennel Club recorded a 237% increase in people visiting their sites to find a puppy in May 2020 compared to 2019. Dog Lost, a charity helping dog theft victims, recorded a 170% increase in dog thefts in 2020.
The main reasons why dog theft is on the rise is down to:
- The high monetary value of dogs, particularly 'designer' breeds
- The rise in demand for a Covid-19 companion whilst everyone spent more time at home
- The high re-sale value
- Reward or ransom money
- Puppy farming
- Dog fighting.
The most stolen dog breeds
Some dog breeds are more desirable to thieves than others. Due to the popularity of some breeds, they can be easily sold, and the thieves can make a lot of money very quickly.
Dog Lost have shared the top most stolen breeds:
- Cocker Spaniels
- English Springer Spaniels
- Jack Russell Terriers
- French Bulldogs
- Staffordshire Bulldog Terriers.
How are dogs stolen?
There are some surprising ways that thieves can get their hands on your dog, such as:
From your garden
Try not to leave your dog unattended in your front or back gardens. Don't assume that, because they're private and fenced, your dog will be safe.
On a walk when out of sight
In busier walking areas, such as a park, it can be easy for your dog to get out of your sight. This gives thieves ample opportunity to snatch dogs in plain sight.
From your car
As a rule, you shouldn't leave your dog unattended in a car for any reason. Being stolen is not the only risk for your dog. A car can get hot very quickly and can cause your dog to suffer from fatal heatstroke.
From being left in front of a business or shop
Even on a busy high street, you can't rely on other people or CCTV for your dog's safety. If you need to pop in a shop, make sure you are with someone you trust to stay with your dog outside.
Because of social media
If you love sharing photos and videos of your beloved pooch online (who can blame you!), don't put your location. Even by putting what county or area you're in, you are giving dog thieves the opportunity to find your dog.
Where are dog thefts most prevalent in the UK?
Between the dates of July 2019 to 2020, these 5 police forces across the UK saw the largest increase in dog thefts:
- Devon & Cornwall
Is dog theft a crime?
There are many campaigns that are encouraging the government to make stealing a dog a crime, but there isn't a specific law against dog theft.
Stealing a dog could be punishable under the Theft Act 1968, which has a maximum penalty of 7 years. But, under that act, dogs are classed as property, the same as a laptop or other household items. This means it's unlikely that a dog thief would suffer these consequences.
This means it’s even more important for you to stay vigilant and put preventative measures in place to keep your dog safe.
How can I prevent my dog from being stolen?
While we encourage you to have fun with your dog, it's important to stay alert as well. Putting these actions in place can help prevent you from being a target and your dog getting stolen:
Train excellent recall
Having a strong recall command like 'come' or 'here' can prevent your dog from straying on a walk.
Microchip your dog
By law, your dog should have a microchip with your details if they go missing or are stolen. If you're worried about your dog getting a microchip, our in-house vet, Martin, has some good news for you: “a microchip is small (about the size of a grain of rice), and takes a matter of seconds to be injected under the skin, so can be done during a normal appointment at your vets. Going back more than 25 years, I have always had all of my pets microchipped, even my rabbits.”
Get your dog an ID tag
Also, by law, your dog must wear an ID tag. Include details such as your postcode, phone number, and your surname. Never include your dog's name on any tags, collars, or harnesses, as this can aid a thief. You can buy an ID tag from your local pet store or online.
Vary your walks
If you must walk your dog alone, try and avoid secluded areas. Sometimes it's hard to vary your dog's routine but try walking at different times and places. This will stop any patterns from being obvious to a dog thief.
Be alert to strangers
It's always nice to get a compliment about your dog and to chat with fellow dog lovers. When the questions begin to get more personal, such as their name, age, and how much they cost you, be wary of sharing this.
Be careful with dog sitters and walkers
Do your research before asking someone to look after your dog. Try and find a reputable company and ask for references from previous customers.
Secure your garden
Make sure that your fence is a good height and doesn't have any damage that could be an entry point for a thief. Keep gates locked and look to add a bell to it so that you will hear if the gate moves. Even with these security measures in place, it's not advised to leave your dog outside without you.
Install CCTV and motion censored lights
While these can be costly, they are great deterrents for thieves targeting your dog.
Beware of social media
Social media can be a great place to keep friends and family up to date on your adventures. But it can also be a place where dog thieves can track down your dog. Be wary of what you post. Steer clear of uploading your location or any identifiable landmarks.
Do I need any anti-theft technology?
To keep your dog extra safe in and out of your home, consider investing in anti-theft technology. There's a range of technology out there that can help you to protect your dog from thieves, such as:
These have GPS tracking in them that allows you to see where your pet is if they are out of sight. You can see their location in real-time and can give you vital information should your dog be stolen.
High-quality outdoor cameras can be a useful tool in gardens if you're worried about your dog's safety. They can give you a live stream to your device, so you'll always have eyes on them.
There are some great pet-friendly home security systems. This means your alarms won't trigger from the movement of your dog. A security system can give you peace of mind when your dog is home alone.
What should I do if my dog is stolen?
If the worst should happen and your dog is stolen, these actions can give your dog the best chance of coming home.
Report your dog as stolen
- Report the theft of your dog to the police right away. Make sure that they record it as a theft, and you get a crime reference number.
- Tell your microchip database so they can tell you if anyone tries to change any details.
- Tell your local dog warden, animal centres, rescue centres, and vet practices.
- Call local newspapers, advertising magazines and media outlets to see if they will share a lost dog poster for you. This will also make other dog owners aware in your local area that there are dog thefts happening.
Use the internet to spread the word
- Share a missing dog appeal on various social media platforms as soon as possible to spread the news. Share images of your dog and any unique features to help anyone identify them. Tag local charities, vets, and businesses to encourage them to share your post to help more people see it. Make sure your profile is public to allow people to share and get in touch with you.
- Use missing and stolen animal websites, such as Dog Lost. They help to reunite missing pets with their owners by offering free advice and support.
- Search for identifying features and the location where your dog was taken. Such as 'dog found in London' or search their breed.
Be on the look out
- Look for dogs for sale online that match the description of your dog and share any findings with the police.
- Visit dog walking locations; ask dog walkers to keep an eye out, share a poster with them and ask them to spread the word.
- Make posters and display them in local areas and in relevant places such as vets and local parks. Make sure you include an image of your dog, a clear description, and details of the event.
Don't be afraid to ask for support
How can my dog insurance help me if my dog is stolen?
Dog insurance can't make up for the emotional loss or upset caused by your dog being stolen. But it can provide you financial support to help you in your search.
At MORE THAN, we offer lost and found cover with all 4 of our dog insurance cover levels. You can add this as optional extra or it's added as standard with our classic and premier cover. With lost and found cover, you could claim towards the cost of advertising or rewards for your dog's safe return.
Covering your dog
If the unexpected happens and your dog is in an accident or unwell, MORE THAN dog insurance can help. Choose from our 4 cover levels to find the right cover for your dog.
*MORE THAN pet insurance claims data January 2020 to June 2021.