Dognapping: Is dog theft on the rise?

How big a problem is dog theft?

Dog snatching is a growing problem with almost 2,000 canine thefts reported to police in England and Wales last year (2018), up by 121 on the year before. The thieves seem to be becoming increasingly brazen with dogs stolen at every possible opportunity – from owners' homes and cars, and even while out walking!

Why is it a growing problem?

The rise of 'designer dogs' is being blamed for the crime spree. With celebrity culture and social media feeding appetites for increasingly exotic pooches in a variety of pedigrees, there is a lot of money to be made by trading dogs on the black market. New and desirable cross breeds are being created all the time – think cockapoo and labradoodle – so with market demand and value being so obvious it's no wonder that opportunists are looking to cash in. There is even more money to be made from dogs that have not been neutered or spayed, and which can be bred to create puppy litters for sale.

Cats are also stolen, but in much smaller numbers, though it's a growing crime. A Freedom of Information request by Pet Theft Awareness to 48 police forces and authorities across the UK revealed a 114% rise in the crime between 2015-2018.

It may also be the case that the thefts are not really growing, but more people are reporting them.

Louise Lee of the Blue Cross animal charity, which helps sick, injured and homeless pets, said: "Perhaps police forces are better at recording this sort of data or more owners feel like they can come forward and report their pet as stolen, not just missing."

On the flip side of this, given that nearly 40% of all owners have had a pet go missing, with 60% of those missing pets never recovered, maybe the numbers are actually higher than are being reported!

How do the criminals operate?

Criminals who want to make money are turning dog napping into a sophisticated operation. Some gangs case their prospective targets weeks in advance and leave marks on gates to show where valuable dogs are living.

The gangs then either sell the dogs on the black market or in some cases demand a ransom for the animal. The former Liverpool footballer Daniel Sturridge recently offered up to £30K as a reward to anyone who returned his Pomeranian dog.

Which dogs get stolen the most?

The top five most commonly stolen dog breeds in 2017 according to police reports were:

  • Staffordshire bull terrier
  • Crossbreed
  • French bulldog
  • Chihuahua
  • Jack Russell

These dogs also happen to be among the most widely owned pets in the country. They are also among the most popular celebrity pets:

  • Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Madonna have owned Chihuahuas
  • Leonardo DiCaprio and Lady Gaga have owned French bulldogs
  • Mariah Carey, Serena Williams and Paul McCartney have owned Jack Russells

Dog theft is more common in some parts of the country than in others, but when spread across the entire UK the numbers are too small to draw many conclusions.

How can I stop my dog or cat being stolen?

Vigilance is key here, as is being careful at all times, whether at home or out and about. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious such as people who seem to be appraising your property, and if you have a valuable dog and a garden which isn't hard to access, then you shouldn't let them out on their own. Never leave your dog alone in the car or tied up outside a shop or supermarket. Furthermore, if you can't control your dog, then don't let them off a leash either.

Consider putting a GPS tracker on your dog as this will give you an indication of their last location before they went missing. It's also a good idea to not do the same walk with your dog at the same time repetitively as this gives dog nappers opportunities.