Stealing is a horrible crime, that can ruin lives depending on what gets stolen. And is there anything worse to be taken from you than your precious family pet? The theft of pets is nothing new. But UK police have found that 2020 has been one of the worst years ever for pet thievery, most likely associated with an increased demand for dogs over the national lockdowns.
In fact, MPs are debating whether to introduce a law specifically for pet theft that will hand out prison sentences, rather than the fines that are normally given! However, no law is a perfect deterrent; so we have 5 tips you can follow to help protect your dog from cruel pet thieves.
5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe
It is now mandatory to have your dog microchipped in the UK. It is a quick and safe way to uniquely identify them. The process implants a little microchip with a unique code under their skin. Should your dog ever be lost or stolen, the chip can be scanned and your details will show up. This can make it very easy to contact you and return your beloved pet.
Please get your dog microchipped and registered with a local vet as soon as you can. You can also give your dog extra identification on their collar tags, such as a name and telephone number. Some modern collars can even connect to your phone for GPS tracking if your dog goes missing.
Many of the recent thefts have involved thieves taking dogs from their homes. Never leave your dog unattended out in the garden where they can be easily snatched. Keep your doors and windows locked while you are out, ideally keep curtains and blinds shut, so thieves cannot look in and see a potential target. In fact, avoid leaving your pet at home while you are out where possible. Furthermore, try and remove anything that could give thieves a clue there is a dog inside your home, such as toys in the garden, pet food bags in the bins, or ‘beware of the dog’ signs on your gate.
Out and About
Sadly, your dog may not be safe from thieves while out and about either. Never leave your dog unattended in a parked car (for health reasons on hot days too!) or tied up outside a shop, as they can quickly be taken. At parks and other open spaces, you should be wary of letting them off the lead; ideally, train them to come back to you when called, and keep them in your sight. In these winter months, giving them reflective coats and flashing lights to wear will ensure they are easily spotted by you and make them more visible to motorists. It may be better to use an extendable lead so they can get a runaround while still being safe and secure. As above, mark the leads with your name and telephone number, in case they run off with the lead still attached!
Following the above tips will go a long way to keeping your pet safe. However, dog charities and the police have noted that certain kinds of dogs are more at risk of theft than others. We recommend being extra careful if you own any of these. Female dogs are at a much higher risk. They (if entire) can be bred from and used to produce more lucrative illegal puppies on puppy farms.
Certain breeds are worth more so are more frequently targeted by thieves – these include Cocker and Springer Spaniels, Labradors, Frenchies and Chihuahuas. Dogs with rarer colour coats too are also a valuable prize for dog-nappers. Finally, if you are the lucky owner of puppies, be very careful. Young puppies are often not yet microchipped, so are easier to sell on, and very valuable to thieves. Avoid spreading the news around that you have new puppies, and never leave them alone.
Even with all the best attention in the world, some dogs do go missing. We hope that most of these have simply wandered off, and will come home soon, but thievery is a prevalent issue right now. If you suspect your dog is lost or stolen, contact the police to file a report.
You should also contact local vets and pounds; your dog may have been handed in and is simply waiting to be reunited with you (again, microchipping can speed this process up considerably). Some cases have been reported where thieves steal dogs, wait for fliers to be put up offering a reward, then ‘return’ the pet to claim the reward or even contact the owner for a ransom! Police recommend that you do not offer a financial reward for the return of lost pets to discourage this. However, advertising your pet is lost has led to some success stories. Social media and lost pet websites can get the word spread far and wide.
We hope that when the global situation improves and the demand for dogs drops, and after MPs (hopefully) introduce new legislation targeting pet thieves, we can stop being so concerned about dog-napping. Until then, it is a good idea to keep our 5 tips in mind, so that you can rest easy knowing your dog is safe in their bed, ready for more fun tomorrow.