Oct 22, 2021 7:39:45 PM
More than 2000 pets were reported stolen last year (source: BBC) and 70% of those thefts were dogs. This compares quite starkly to just 172 reported in 2019. The rise in pet theft is thought to be directly related to the increase in the cost of dogs, making them an even more valuable commodity. This situation has spiralled since the pandemic - with UK pet purchases increasing significantly and the inevitable laws of supply and demand pushing the prices higher.
“According to Dogs Trust, the price for five of the UK’s most sought-after breeds grew during the first lockdown, in some cases by as much as 89%, with some breeds now worth more than £6,000. Reports have suggested this in particular could be propelling the increase in thefts.” [The Guardian]
So, what can we do to keep our beloved dogs safe and secure?
We have created a list of useful considerations that will help to keep your dog by your side. We’ve also looked at the best course of action to take if you do fall victim to this heart-breaking crime.
Microchip – it’s law
It is a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped. It’s a pain-free procedure and takes a few seconds. You dog’s information is digitally stored at a central database and a quick sweep of your pet using the vet’s handheld scanner links your dog with you as its owner.
Legally, all dogs must wear a collar and ID tag when out in public, which must detail your name and address, including postcode. This applies whether your dog is on its lead or not. It is recommended that your dog’s name isn’t included on its collar so a would-be thief doesn’t have this valuable information.
Secure your outside space
Making sure your dog is safe whilst outside your property is a number one priority. If you can, erect a high fence or wall and lock your gates. Check regularly for escape routes (especially if you have a digger!) and try and ensure your dog isn’t visible to passers-by. If it’s impossible to create a completely secure environment, it’s recommended that you have your dog in constant sight. You can also invest in security cameras and a gate alarm – both act as excellent deterrents.
“Front gardens are very vulnerable” [Metropolitan Police]
Don’t leave your dog unattended
Tying your dog up outside the local shop while you pop inside used to be commonplace. Sadly, any unattended dog is an easy target so we recommend against this. Leaving your dog unattended also includes in a vehicle or even off-lead in a public place.
It’s really important that your dog has a strong recall should you ever need to call them away from someone who is acting suspiciously. Practise recall often and reward with lots of fuss and treats when your dog comes to you when called.
Be wary of strangers
This leads us to our next point. Be aware of anyone who seems overly interested in your pet. A natural interest is always welcome of course, it’s conversation currency between dog owners. However, trust your instincts when someone becomes too inquisitive or asks questions that you feel uncomfortable answering. Why would someone randomly need to ask if your bitch has been spayed?
Consider how you use social media. Your new puppy is probably the most Insta-worthy subject you can imagine but be careful about stating your exact location and giving details of your favourite places to walk.
Vary your walks and times so you don’t become a predictable target. Increase the privacy settings on your social media platforms – don’t give away any information to anyone who isn’t within your close circle of friends.
Consider a tracker
You can clip a tracker to your dog’s collar that will allow you to track him in real time using GPS technology, just like your satnav. However this will only provide a short window of useful opportunity as a dog thief is likely to remove it pretty quickly. It is always worth a shot, especially if you have a dog that takes itself off on an unplanned walkabout!
Know your dog walkers
As we start to return to work and go out more in general, we might use the services of a local dog walker. As this is an unregulated industry, make sure you only use people known or recommended to you. A good dog walking business will have solid references, third-party insurance and go through a ‘getting to know you’ period before taking your dog anywhere. It’s also worth asking how many dogs your walker has out together – a smaller group means there will be more attention and care for each one.
We hardly need telling as our dogs are usually incredibly well photographed but…
“…make sure you take pictures of your dog from various angles, especially if they have distinctive markings or features. A further photo of you with your dog can help to prove ownership. Taking photos of your dog in various conditions can also help, such as with a groomed coat or an untidy one.” [Metropolitan Police]
It’s not all bad news
This all sounds so gloomy and worrying so, for perspective, remember that 2000 out of the millions of dogs that we own as a nation is a relatively small number. Take as many of the security steps as you feel are appropriate and don’t let this issue spoil the wonderful joy of dog ownership.
The UK government has recently announced law reforms that make dog theft a criminal offence. Unbelievably, until this year, dog theft was likened to phone theft but that has now changed. Punishment for dog-related crimes have been made more severe. Additionally a government taskforce has been set up to look into tackling the crime of pet theft.
“Earlier this year, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act received Royal Assent. The maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty has been raised from six months to five years, allowing courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting. These more stringent sentences are amongst the toughest in Europe and send a clear message that the mistreatment of any animal will not be tolerated.” [The Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs]
If your dog is stolen…
“…animal welfare organisations have been warning that pets who have never known anything other than their humans being around all the time could struggle to adjust when owners return to the workplace post-lockdown.” [The Guardian, July 2021]
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