Dog theft is a particularly horrible crime, because it often means heartbreak for a family. Sadly, it’s on the rise in the UK.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have been stuck at home, and demand for pet dogs and puppies has skyrocketed, as have their asking prices. Unfortunately, the rising prices of pet dogs has been accompanied by a 170% increase in dog theft, because criminals have spotted a new opportunity to make some quick money.
Often, the tactics the thieves use are opportunistic, such as cutting leads with scissors and running off with the dog. But some dog thefts are carefully planned – there have been cases where thieves have put fake RSPCA stickers on white vans and posed as RSPCA workers. The thieves approach dog owners and ask them to hand over their dogs so that they can do an “ownership check”. They then speed off in the van with the dog inside.
Our MD, Neil Barham, a dog-lover himself, is very concerned about the rise in dog theft cases. He wants people to know how they can prevent it: “Danhouse provides security services to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, so naturally pet safety is something that we care deeply about. Here is some security advice for dog-owners.”
Microchipping is crucial
It’s a legal requirement in England and Wales for puppies to be microchipped by the time they’re 8 weeks old and for the contact details of owners to be kept up-to-date. If your dog ever goes missing, the information held in the microchip will be crucial in helping to ensure it is returned safely to you.
Your dog’s collar should have an ID tag on it which clearly displays the owner’s name and contact details. A lot of dog owners like to put their dog’s name in a tag on the collar, but this is actually not recommended because a thief could call the dog by name to lure it away.
Photograph your dog
It’s always a good idea to have plenty of recent photos of your dog to hand which show any distinguishing markings. If your dog is stolen, photos can be of great assistance to the police and others to help track it down.
Secure your garden
52% of dog theft cases result from an intruder stealing a dog from a back garden. So it’s really important that the outside space at your home is secure, with gates kept locked and fencing in a good state of repair. It’s a good idea to fit garden gates with bells so that you’re alerted if they are opened. Install sensor lights outside too so that you can keep an eye on your pooch when it’s in the garden after dark. Although expensive, installing a CCTV system is a good deterrent.
We also recommend that you don’t put any notices or signs on your property advertising the fact that there are dogs present. 19% of dog theft cases involve thieves breaking into homes and removing the animals.
Walking your dog
It’s always important, with any dog, to ensure that it’s appropriately trained. When you’re out walking your dog, always keep it in sight. Dogs should always be trained to respond immediately to the owner’s recall command.
If you can, try and go for dog walks with a friend, as this will reduce your chances of being a victim of dog theft. When you’re dog-walking on your own always try and put yourself between your dog and the road. There have been many cases of dogs being snatched by thieves from pavements.
Another good idea is to vary your dog-walking routes and the time of day you do them. Using your phone to catch up on your social media while you’re out for a dog walk should be avoided as it’s a distraction – thieves know this and while you’re busy scrolling away on your mobile it’s much easier for them to make off with your dog.
If a stranger starts asking you lots of questions about your dog, you should always be wary about their intentions. Ask yourself why they appear so interested in your dog. Should you notice anybody behaving suspiciously near your dog, or near other people’s dogs, try and take photos of the individuals, and their vehicles. These can be very helpful to the police in dog theft cases. But always do this discreetly – it’s best not to attract their attention or you could be putting yourself in danger.
And most important of all, never leave your dog alone in a car or tied-up outside a shop.
Many people use the services of dog walkers, groomers and dog-sitters. Before you entrust your pet into the care of any of these people, make sure you do your homework on them – only use providers who are legitimate, reputable and local. And if you’re a dog breeder, be extra careful about who you’re inviting into your home to view your dogs and puppies.
We’re a nation of dog-lovers and we hope that this advice will help to keep your beloved pet where it belongs, right at the heart of a happy home.