Why is dog theft on the rise?

How much of a problem is dog theft in the UK?

Dog snatching has been a growing problem in the UK with almost 2,000 dog thefts reported to police in England and Wales in 2018. This saw a rise of 121 in stolen canines from the previous year. 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! Find out what’s causing the worrying trend in dog thefts and how you can prevent your pooch from being stolen.

Why is dog theft a growing problem?

The rise in popularity of 'designer dogs' is being partly 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.

Why is dog theft a growing problem?

The rise in popularity of 'designer dogs' is being partly 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.

Has lockdown led to a rise in dog thefts?

Lockdown has apparently led to an unprecedented rise in the number of dog thefts in the UK. At a time when many of us have been spending more time than ever with our pets, Dog Lost, the UK’s largest lost and found service, have claimed that 2020 has been ‘the worst year ever known’ for dog thefts.

With people spending so much time at home, the demand for dogs and puppies has soared, with demand far outstripping supply. In fact, so many households have wanted to get their hands on new puppies, that the average cost of a pup has more than doubled.

This astonishing rise in cost has alerted criminal gangs looking to cash in on the demand for dogs.

How many dogs are stolen in the UK?

Around 12 dogs are stolen in the UK every day, according to private agency The Pet Detectives. Ran by a former police inspector, The Pet Detectives specialise in finding and recovering stolen cats and dogs.

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."

Animal charity Dogs Trust have claimed that there are as many as 2,000 dogs stolen in the UK every year, although nearly 40% of all owners have had a pet go missing, with 60% of those missing pets never recovered, it may be that the actual numbers are much 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.

Is dog theft a crime?

Stealing a dog from its owner is a crime under UK law. Dog theft carries a potential sentence of up to seven years in prison under the Theft Act 1968.

Recently, there has been a petition to the government in order to increase the potential sentence to eight years, with a minimum fine of £5,000. You can sign the petition here.

Dog thefts in lockdown

French Bulldogs in particular have been targeted by dog thieves and criminal gangs during lockdown.

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 famously owned Chihuahuas
  • Leonardo DiCaprio owns French bulldogs
  • Mariah Carey, Serena Williams and Paul McCartney have owned Jack Russells

In February, Lady Gaga offered a $50,000 reward for the safe return of her French Bulldogs Koji and Gustavo after they were stolen by thieves in Los Angeles. It’s reported that her dog walker was shot four times during the robbery.

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.

What should you do if your dog has been stolen?

Having one of our pets taken away from us is every owner’s worst nightmare. If you suspect that your dog has been stolen or is missing, you must report it to the police as soon as possible. It’s also worth contacting your local rescue centre with an extensive description of your and the details of their microchip just in case.

It’s important to get the word out there if your dog has disappeared. Canvas your local area with pictures and a description of your dog. Your search doesn’t have to be restricted to your local area however. Spread the word on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and encourage people to share the posts. Fellow pet owners will always do their bit to help find a lost dog.

You might also want to raise alarm with your pet insurance company. At petGuard, we can cover the cost of local advertising for your missing dog and will even put up a £250 reward for their safe return. Your pet must have been missing for over 24 hours.

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