Dog Theft; The problem, prevention, and how we can help.

Incidences of dog theft have been rising over the past few years but in recent months Ireland and the UK have seen a significant increase in dog thefts. Two of the most common reasons for stealing dogs are for Resale or breeding.

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an exponential increase in the price of dogs and puppies, reflecting the steep acceleration in demand from the general public. The Kennel club, recorded a near tripling of searches on its “find a puppy” tool when compared with the same time last year.

Among the most commonly targeted are working/ gun dog breeds and pedigrees. These expensive dogs not only attract the attention of hopeful owners, but also organised criminals. Charity, DogLost, has noted that dog thefts have increased by up to 65% when compared with last year’s records from the end of March to the beginning of June alone (Dalton, 2020)

Criminal gangs looking to capitalise on this market are stealing dogs from unsuspecting owners, whilst defrauding individuals on the search for their perfect dog or puppy, as once stolen these dogs can be re-sold for thousands.

There are a number of tactics thieves use to obtain your dog, common approaches include;

  • BEING STOLEN FROM A BACK GARDEN – Many of us assume that our gardens are safe places, however Pet Census estimate that up to 52% of stolen dogs were taken directly from their owner’s garden. It is advised that you always keep an eye on your dog when It is in the garden and that your gate is secured with a lock.
  • STOLEN DURING WALKS – Generally in a busy park or dog walking location where thieves can take advantage or crowded locations, using confusion and dogs being off lead to their advantage.
  • STOLEN FROM A CAR – Leaving dogs in cars is heavily advised against due to the associated risk of heat stroke, however, another reason to not leave your dog in the car is due to the increased risk of you dog being stolen from your vehicle.
  • STOLEN FROM OUTSIDE OF SHOPS – Some owners like to walk their pets to the local shop with them when popping in for a few necessities. Many shops do not allow dogs inside and this results in owners tying their dogs at shop entrances. This leaves your dog’s extremely vulnerable to opportunistic theft.

Knowing the above information can be beneficial to owners who would like to introduce deterrents and safeguards against their beloved dogs being stolen. Some safeguards can be seen below;

  • UNATTENDED DOGS – An unattended dog can be and easier target for the opportunistic thief. DON’T leave your pets unattended in public places even for the shortest length of time, as mentioned above thefts in public are usually opportunistic and can be easily avoided.
  • MICROCHIPPING – Ensure your dog/s are microchipped. Since April 2016 it has been a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped by the age of 8 weeks old. Be sure to check that all details including your home address and phone numbers are regularly kept up to date. It can also be beneficial to note down your pet’s microchip number and which company they are chipped with in case you ever need this information should the worst happen.
  • COLLARS AND TAGS – Alongside microchipping it is compulsory for dogs to wear a collar with a tag attached, which carries your details, however, be sure NOT to include your pets name on the tag as this can easily be used to thieves to call your pet to them and appear that they know your dog. It is generally advised to include your Surname, Phone number and Postcode only. Including information such as microchipped and neutered can also help to deter thieves looking to breed from your dog.
  • STRANGERS – Be wary of individuals who pay extra attention to you and your dog. Whilst it is nice for strangers to pass comment on how lovely your dog is, be vigilant and cautious against those who ask too many questions about your dog or yourself and be careful to not hand over this information willingly as they may be targeting you for theft.
  • GARDENS AND PROPERTY –Make it difficult for prying eyes to see into your property and garden and make it even harder for them to obtain access. Ensure boundaries are well secured with fencing or hedges. If you have a gate ensure it remains locked. Some owners find CCTV particularly beneficial if they have outdoor kennels or for extra security.
  • WALKING AND BEHAVIOUR – Varying your habits, walking times, directions and destinations can cause confusion for thieves as there is no predictable pattern or routine for them to follow and intercept upon. When out walking ensure that your dog has good recall if being let of the lead and do not allow them to leave your sight completely.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA – Although social media can be a fantastic help when reuniting lost and stolen pets it can also make you a target for pet theft. Be particularly careful what you post about your pet and habits online and ensure that all location tracking on your posts, videos and photos are switched off and avoid giving away details that may highlight your address.
  • PHOTOGRAPHS/ PROOF OF OWNERSHIP – Ensure that you have plenty of photos, including up to date photographs of your pet from different angles as well as photos of you and your pet together. This not only helps to prove that the dog is yours but can also be beneficial during the searching effort.
  • VIGILANCE – Be vigilant of suspicious persons seen around addresses or any cold callers.

All the above reduces the risk of your dog/s being stolen it unfortunately does not completely remove all chances of your dog being stolen. So, what can you do if the worst was to occur?

  • REPORT TO THE POLICE AS A THEFT – Ensure that you report it to the police and request a crime number and inform the local dog warden.
  • PUT UP POSTERS AND LETTER DROP – Putting up posters in your local area with an up to date photo can contact details can help to raise awareness.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA – This can be an invaluable tool to raise awareness and spread the word quickly as well as far and wide.
  • REPORT TO LOCAL COUNCIL AND DOG WARDEN
  • REPORT TO LOCAL VETS AND RESCUE SHELTERS
  • INFORM YOUR MICROCHIP COMPANY – Report your pet stolen and/or missing to other microchip databases as well.
  • REGISTER YOUR PET AS MISSING AND/OR STOLEN ON DEDICATED WEBSITES
  • WORD OF MOUTH – Inform pet shops, groomers and local shops etc. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool use it to your advantage when searching for your pet, make them “too hot to handle.”
  • INFORM YOUR PET INSURANCE COMPANY – Many insurance companies offer a specific pot of money as part of your policy specific to lost and found (Advertising and Recovery).

At petisnure.ie we are committed to helping you and your pets alongside our advertising and recovery benefit as part of our Care Plan and Care Plus policies, we will always be happy to use our Social Media presence to try and reunite Pets and Owners!