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March 14 is Dog Theft Awareness Day


The number of dogs reported lost or stolen is on the rise and there has been a 33% rise in the number of reported dog thefts between 2014 and 2015 in the UK. Nor is the problem confined to the UK – similar trends are also evident in Australia, US and Canada. However, even though stealing a dog is a crime, no statistics appear to be collected on stolen dogs here... 

Sadly, there is a growing market for these stolen dogs – often fuelled by unsuspecting new owners or backyard breeders – which is why you should never buy a dog from an ad online or via the Classifieds.

Whilst they continue to be of value to thieves, the trend in dog thefts will sadly continue. As things stand, the law isn't of much help. Pets are still considered as property, and stealing someone's beloved dog is no different than stealing a mobile phone or a TV set - resulting in very light sentence even if the thief is caught, something that is unlikely to happen to begin with, while the potential profit is very high.

Even worse, recovering your stolen dog can become harder than recovering a stolen object: there have been cases where the dogs were sold on and the original owners, despite having proof of ownership, were told that it was "a civil matter" to settle in court, and that the police wouldn't intervene to seize their pets and return them to their rightful owners. A stolen car or laptop, for example, would be returned to the owner right away!

WHO IS MOST AT RISK?

The general perception is that dog theft is a 'casual' crime, committed on the spur of the moment in public places but in fact very often, specific dogs are targeted.

The type of dogs stolen reflects those that are of highest value for resale and breeding. Among the most likely victims are the 'fashionable' breeds such as the Pugs, French Bulldogs and Chihuahuas and those with unusual colours are particularly vulnerable.


French Bulldogs are now the 3rd most popular dog breed in Australia

They are often sold on for cash or worse yet, unscrupulously bred from to sell these resulting puppies to the unsuspecting public. 

Working gundogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Springer and Cocker Spaniels are also highly-prized breeding dogs – and larger breeds are also stolen to become bait dogs for illegal dog fighting.

TOP 5 HIGH RISK PET THEFT SCENARIOS

#1. Highly Prized Breeds or Dogs With Special Abilities

A purebred dog or a dog with special skills is a bit like a gold watch. Thieves see dollar signs and that’s more than enough temptation. Any dog left unattended under any circumstances can be taken, but there is far greater motivation for criminals to walk off with a dog who can bring in a large sum of cash.


#2. Dogs in Cars

In the blink of an eye, a partially opened window can be forced down or the window smashed and your dog can be removed from the vehicle. It takes 20 seconds or less to abduct a dog and by the time you return to your car, your dog is long gone. 

Lockable dog crates can be an additional deterrent but a good rule of thumb is to treat your dog as you would your laptop or phone!

#3. Pets Left in Fenced Backyards

Everyone loves the convenience of a doggy door, especially criminals. Homeowners who let their pet explore the fenced yard without supervision have the illusion of safety, but police departments across the country will tell you that the theft of these dogs is climbing. 

Avoid leaving dogs unattended in gardens. Gardens where dogs are visible pose a higher risk of theft.

#4. Pets Left Tied in Front of Shops


This one may sound like a no-brainer, but particularly in urban areas where people take their pets on their errands on foot, it’s not uncommon to see dogs tied up in front of a bank or grocery store. 

Typically, these are smaller dogs who are also well-behaved and this makes them more likely to be stolen without a fuss.

#5. Strangers in the Neighbourhood

Any strangers on the property can be a risk to your pets. Whether they are invited contractors, deliverymen, visitors could easily grab your pet whilst you’re being distracted. In some cases, they are making a mental note of homes with valuable breeds or easy-to-subvert home security that will facilitate a quick dog-napping at a later time.

But there is also a worrying rise in the number of dogs being grabbed from unsuspecting owners while out for a walk or stolen during house and kennel break-ins.

Make sure your house is secure, including good window and door locks.
When letting your dog off the lead, make sure their recall is good, and try, as far as possible, to keep them in sight. If in any doubt, recall them and pop them back on the lead. If your dog’s recall is poor, keep them on a lead in open and non-secure spaces. Avoid giving information about your dog to strangers, and report any suspicious activity. If you feel unsafe, try to arrange group walks with friends or neighbours.

STAYING SAFE


Although it is now a legal requirement for all dogs to have an implanted microchip containing up-to-date with each owner details, it also make good sense for pet safety. Dogs that have been sold on to unsuspecting new owners or handed in to rescue shelters after being dumped, have been successfully reunited with their owners when scanned for a microchip at the vet.

As technology continues to develop, the availability of pet tracking devices may well become more prominent. Linked to an app on a smartphone, they allow owners to monitor their dog’s whereabouts. However, they remain somewhat bulky and reliant upon the dog wearing a collar with the device attached and it would be the first thing a thief would discard…


If the worst should happen and your dog is stolen, notify the police, your local ranger, vets and rescue groups in your area and the microchip company. Social media has led to many success stories, too, by making dogs “too hot to handle”. Make sure you have clear photos of your dog from multiple angles. Registering your lost pet with a national register and dog lost and found sites provides another quick and effective way of circulating information on missing animals.

Offering a reward for a missing dog can encourage a swift return but also increases the appeal of dog theft, encouraging criminals to cash in on the reward – or even demand a ransom.

Although dog theft is now a sad reality, an awareness of the problem and the use of deterrents may be the key to at least minimising the risk of theft. It is your best friend after all.

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