Evidence shows that thieves have been seeking to profit from the surge in demand for dogs and the sky high prices people were willing to pay during the coronavirus pandemic. Official figures suggest 2,000 dogs were stolen in England and Wales last year* and the charity, DogLost, also recorded a 170% increase in dog thefts from 2019 to 2020**.
This is easily a dog owner’s worst nightmare, which is why we have enlisted the help of a security expert to share how owners can keep their beloved pets safe.
According to the professional, a new tactic thieves are using is ‘tagging’, where they spray paint crosses or other symbols on the pavement outside houses, to show/communicate that a desirable dog is at the property, and they should return to it to steal it.
Additionally thieves will ‘scout’ dogs at popular locations like dog parks, and ask questions about the dog, such as whether it has been neutered or not. They will then follow the owner home to find out where they live.
Top tips to keep your dog safe from dognappers:
- Ensure the dog is never left unattended outside or in a car by itself. This is a prime opportunity for a thief to take the dog, and will often be prepared with treats to lure them away quietly.
- If a mysterious symbol appears outside a house, the owner should wash it away immediately and report it to the police, or those who might spot it should notify the owner of its existence.
- Gardens should be secure, with the dog visible at all times. Again do not leave the dog outside for a prolonged period of time unattended.
- Try and mix up routines, so a thief can’t predict when a dog might be left alone and vulnerable. This can be as simple as rotating when a dog is walked to when an owner leaves the house. Often thieves will only watch a house for a couple of days before deciding whether to steal a dog from a certain property.
- Install a camera inside and outside the home, even if it’s not on. Simply seeing a camera can deter thieves from attempting a break in.
- If a stranger starts asking a lot of questions about a dog, particularly whether the dog is neutered, what their age is or whether they have any conditions, see it as a red flag and walk away. Never reveal this information to unknown people and be sure to tell other dog walkers in the area.
- Refrain from sharing too much information on social media. Thieves are known to scour accounts on Facebook and Instagram to get information on a dog’s whereabouts and routine.
The British Government recently investigated the surge in dog theft, and released its report on their findings. The ‘pet theft taskforce’ recommended the following interventions to the 3 Secretaries of State for Defra, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to tackle the issue:
- Introduce a new ‘pet abduction’ offence
- Identify and track cases
- Enhance the recording of keepership and of transfers
The full report can be found here:
If you discover that your dog is stolen, report the theft to the police straight away. Ensure you get a crime reference number and insist that your dog is recorded as stolen and NOT missing. Report the theft of your dog to your local authority dog warden and notify your microchip database provider. Finally spread the word on social media that your dog has been stolen – encourage people in your local network to share the news, this can sometimes help bring your pet back.
Heidi Maskelyne, founder of ProDog Raw, said,
“It’s about time that the police took dog theft seriously. Before this new abduction offence, stealing a dog was considered property theft, which often resulted in very mild punishments that don’t reflect the sheer devastation having a pet stolen can bring to a family.
“I think the expert’s insight and tips are invaluable to owners, because they’re actionable and cost-effective; you don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on a state of the art CCTV system to keep your dog safe. What’s clear from the advice is to be wary and vigilant, there are criminals out there with insidious intentions, but there’s also a lot we can do to ensure they’re not successful.”