• Tori Lynn Crowther

The Rise Of Dog Thefts Around Lockdown

The rise of dog thefts around Lockdown

Covid has been a strange time for everything, not least the sale of dogs. The price of dogs has rocketed and so has the demand. Demand has outstripped supply which has resulted in the rise in organised dog theft and theft on demand.

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Every Dog Matters

Why has there been a rise in dog theft?

Due to the increased time that people have been home alone over the last year, many people have decided what better time to get a puppy than now! Due to this unexpected demand on puppies, the sale of puppies has risen dramatically and there is still not enough puppies to go around. Here come the opportunist thieves.

It is still the case that there are not as many dog thefts as social media makes out. But, we all need to be really careful not to put our dogs in unnecessary risk of being stolen.

It appears that dog theft is on the rise. The social media is full of dog theft cases, however, what you do not notice is how many of these stolen dogs get returned that afternoon as they were actually lost. Also, how many are old cases that you see every year and think it is a new case. Pets4homes reported that approximately 5 dogs were stolen in the UK per day, however 17% of these do make their way back home. The amount of reported thefts is increasing yearly, but so is the number of dogs we keep. In 1965, we had 4.7 million dogs, the PDSA reported that in February 2020 there were 10.1 million pet dogs. In 1965, dog napping was so prevalent in the USA that they made it illegal. The UK followed suite in 1968. There are things you can do to lessen this chance too.

In 2021, the most common dog stolen in the UK is still the Staffordshire Bull Terriers, however, coincidentally, the dog I find wandering the streets most with no tag and no chip is also the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Since lockdown, the breeds that are been stolen for demand tend to be Spaniels, French Bulldogs and Jack Russell Terriers.

Dog theft is often a business to make easy money. Dogs are stolen for the reward (Expensive dogs are a favourite, as they are likely to be insured with a theft clause). Puppies are stolen to be sold straight on for an instant profit, the younger the better. Entire dogs are frequently stolen to be bred from (any dog with a good look and pleasant disposition, also the current “it” dogs, the ones that are overbred due to demand) and occasionally dogs are stolen for bait to train dogs to fight (generally German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers and Bully type dogs) or even their fur! There are also the chancers who see a dog is missing and contact the owners for the reward without ever having seen the dog. Most dog thieves are chancers, so make their money less easy to make and therefore lessening your chance of becoming a victim.

There is a new scam going around where thieves are driving around in a van that is made up to look like the RSPCA and taking possession of dogs. If you find a dog, ensure these really are who they say they are, the RSPCA do not take in Lost dogs. Also, they have no rights to take possession of a dog without a court order.

Wayne May, senior police liaison officer at Dog Lost told explained to Tyla why dog-napping has become such a huge problem in the last year. He said: "People were looking for companion animals at home during lockdown which has inadvertently sparked a rise in the value of dogs in general which obviously has been capitalised on.

"We were running out of dogs in the UK. We also have a big problem of dogs being illegally imported into the UK without paperwork at the moment and obviously people are having their dogs stolen specifically to be bred from.

"It has been a cascade of events."

Cocker Spaniels have become the most sought after dog breed amongst dognappers, with Wayne adding: "I don't like putting a retail value on animals to be honest but the average retail value for a cocker spaniel was £800-£1000 in 2018/2019. In 2020, the value went up to £3000-£5000.

"I work specifically with stolen dogs and we have recovered some dogs with puppies or puppies that have been sold. One thief earned £25,000 in one day just by selling puppies from one stolen dog.

We recovered more stolen dogs from that property, and they were all pregnant. If he wasn't caught, he would have exceeded £100,000 from dog theft."

Do Not Be A Victim To Dog Theft

The main place that dogs are stolen from is their own garden! Around 50% of the cases are taken from their back garden, then there are some stolen out on walks, from their home, in their car, while waiting outside shops, the list goes on, but one thing never changes, the majority are stolen to provide money! How do you reduce the chances of them making money from your dog?

Ensure you dog is Micro chipped and the details kept up to date. Apart from this being the law, if the dog is stolen and tried to resell, the new owners will likely get the dog to a vet and their chip will be seen! Even if they are used on a puppy farm, when they have served their purpose they may be dumped. I saw a story of a dog missing for 12 years, and she was finally returned home, very worn, had lots of puppies and very exhausted, but otherwise safe to live the rest of her days back with her family due to being Micro chipped. 75% of missing dogs are returned due to their microchip.

Ensure your dog is always wearing an ID tag or even two, with your details but not their name. Have them in two separate places, one on their collar and one on a harness. Also remove the ring that the tag came on and replace it with a super, strong ring. You can buy these for extraordinarily little money, and it saves you having to buy a new tag as the old one got lost as the ring broke. It is law that every dog wears an identity tag, but how many dogs wander off from their owners and pass 10 people who would call the owner if only they had a tag on, and finally fall into the hands of a thief?

A GPS Pet Tracker can help if your dog goes missing, although it can be removed by thieves, this still gives you a greater chance of getting them back before they fall into a thieves hands.

While walking your dog, ensure all your attention is on your dog. If you are busy on your social media account, you might not notice that thief that is enticing your dog away. Play with your dog, entertain them and you so that they want to stay by you and are not wanting to go off and meet new people. Also, ensure you vary your route, variety ensures thieves can not spot a pattern and plan the theft.

Pregnant bitches are a bonus for thieves. Lots of little dogs for the theft of one. Be extra vigilant not to let your pregnant bitch out of your sight or be left alone. When you are re-homing the puppies, take care who you invite in to see them and ensure they are in a secure area.

Keep your garden secure and do not let strangers know what dog you have there, lessening the chance of people looking to pinch breeds to order. If your dog is allowed out in your garden and you cannot have a lock on your gate, put either a bell or alarm to let you know people have entered, or dogs have exited. Also have CCTV videoing your garden.

Ensure your house is as safe as possible. Have CCTV surveillance in your house and advertise this outside. Have an alarm on every door and window. They might not be entering to get your dog, but it does not mean they will not take it on entry. Also, they could hurt your dog, or your dog could escape.

Choose dog walker or home boarder carefully. Dog Walking is an unregulated industry, ensure you have good reliable recommendations, do not rely on people you only know on social media. Get the names of them, then research them yourself. It is not that they are likely to pinch the dog, the risk of this is exceptionally low, but how good are they with dogs? Will your dog run away from them? Do they walk too many dogs so are likely to lose one? Escape out of their garden? Go missing when they are chatting on their phone? Ensure they have been in business for a minimum of 2 years and they must never walk more than 6 dogs (4 in some councils) at a time and question if they are planning giving up any time soon. The star rating that the councils give is a good indication, however, home boarders cannot get a full star rating if they leave the dog in the house on any occasion and I am not sure how convinced I am that these dogs never get left, so do not dismiss lower stars just for that reason. Check how often they will leave your dog and what their dog lost policy is.

Beware people asking questions, are they just being friendly or are they trying to figure out how valuable your dog is. Do they have a dog of their own? If not, why are they talking to you? Just mention that it is spayed with a heart murmur maybe!

Never leave your dog alone in a vehicle. This is an invitation for thieves to make easy money.

Make dog too hot to handle. Ensure you have lots of photos of your dog at all angles and photos of you with your dog, so that you can quickly and easily put all these onto social media and on posters. Put where you are, the time and date, how the dog went missing, any distinguishing features. There is no single national database, so ensure you join a few dog lost sites and local group sites on social media, as they are often members only and will require you to join before you can advertise, this can take time. Also find which ones do not require admin to permit them, as those few minutes can be vital in stopping that thief. Once they are gone with a thief, you are very unlikely to get them back, time is vital. Once stolen, a dog can be moved many miles in a short space of time. Do not forget, if you do not know the dog has been stolen, do not put it has, as this makes genuine cases less believable, people will look for your dog just as much if it is missing as if it is stolen. When you get your dog back through the powers of social media, thanks everyone for looking and state they are home at the top of every post you put up.

Do not forget, your dog could just have got lost, do not just jump straight on the stolen. Call round all your local shelters and the local authority warden and neighbouring local authorities, as the local authority have 7 days before they can euthanise, and once this has happened there is no getting them back. If they say no the first time, this does not mean your dog will not be there the next day. Keep checking.

If your dog goes missing on a walk, retrace your steps back to where you have been. If you have a vehicle, head back there, there is a high chance that is where they will aim for.

Ask anyone you see about your dog, make it well known that your dog is missing and hand out your number to as many people as you can so they can easily contact you if they think they spot your dog.

Put up lost dog posters where the dog went missing, this means that people in the correct area see the information.

You can report your dog missing to various databases, such as The National Pet Register and Animal Search UK

If you know your dog is stolen, report it to the police and insist upon it being recorded as stolen with a crime reference number, not just a lost dog.

What should you do if you find a dog?

If you find a dog, you follow similar steps to if you have lost one. Report the found dog to various databases, such as The National Pet Register and Animal Search UK

and put them on social media and found dog posters. When someone claims the dog, ensure they have proof of ownership, such as photos of themselves with the dog and the dog appears to know them, remember, these thieves can also try and claim an easy target like a found dog.

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