New research by Direct Line Pet Insurance has revealed the scale of dog theft in the country, as the number of dogs stolen in the UK keeps rising for the fourth consecutive year. In 2018, a total of 1,959 dogs were reported stolen to UK police forces – which means that, on average, five dogs are stolen every day.

Voted the nation’s favourite dog, despite being most likely to be abused, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was targeted most by criminals in 2018, with 88 reported thefts over the year. Despite still topping the list, dog theft cases involving Staffies have almost halved since 2017.

Most likely due to the popularity of designer breeds like Labradoodles and Puggles, crossbreeds are second most targeted, with 53 reported cases of stolen crossbreeds in 2018. The Chihuahua has taken over the French Bulldog for the unenviable position as third most stolen, with 52 cases of theft reported in 201 – an 18 per cent increase from 2017.

dog theft target

Below is a table of the 10 most stolen breeds with reported dog thefts from 2017 and 2018. Flat-faced dog breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs have become increasingly popular due to the number of celebrities who own them. The demand for these breeds can be seen in the table, as Pugs went from the 11th most stolen in 2017 to the sixth most stolen last year – a 500 per cent increase.

Eva Sandstra-Bennett, Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, said, “It is heartbreaking to see there are still so many dogs stolen each year and the numbers are continuing to rise. Dogs are a huge part of the family, so it causes real distress and trauma when they are stolen.

“Unfortunately, the popularity of designer and flat-faced dogs means they are highly desirable for thieves, as they are easily identifiable and can be sold on for thousands of pounds. Owners of these breeds should be particularly vigilant and aware of situations that make it easier for thieves. This can include leaving them locked in cars, tied up outside a shop or allowing them off the lead out of sight.”

The top three police forces with the highest number of reported thefts in 2018 are the Metropolitan Police Service (304); West Yorkshire Police (179); and Greater Manchester Police (161). Even more alarming, the number of dogs returned to their owners have fallen year on year. South Yorkshire Police and Essex Police both had a success rate of just seven per cent, with South Yorkshire reuniting six out of the 91 stolen dogs reported in 2018 and Essex Police returning just three out of 43.

Suffolk Constabulary had the greatest success rate, returning 85 percent of dogs stolen in 2018. Although just 13 dogs were reported stolen across the county in 2018, 11 were returned to their owners. Completing the top three are Leicestershire Constabulary, which returned 26 out of 37 dogs stolen (70 per cent success), and Dorset Police, which returned 37 out of 58 – a 64 percent success rate.

Eva Sandstra-Bennett, added, “Unfortunately, while the number of dogs stolen is rising, the number returned is also falling; meaning owners are increasingly unlikely to be reunited with their beloved pet. If the worst does happen and a dog is stolen, owners should report it to the police immediately and start spreading the word among their local community.

“Online communities are also vital, as is sharing photos of the pet on social media. Owners should also ensure that their pet is microchipped, and the contact details are up to date so if they are taken to a vet’s surgery, the vet will have the right ownership details.”

If you suspect your missing dog has been stolen:

  • Firstly, make sure to check the local area and your dog’s favourite spots in case they have wandered off
  • Make your dog ‘too hot to handle’ by sharing information on social media, putting up posters in the local area and informing local media – include pictures and any distinctive marks in any appeals, and ask others to spread the word
  • Specific sites like DogLost are set up to help find missing dogs as well as offering advice and support.
  • Report the dog theft to the police and provide them with as much detail as possible
  • Report your dog as stolen to local pet related services like vets, animal shelters, pet shops, dog wardens and the council. Provide photos, a physical description, and the dog’s microchip number
  • Report your dog to the microchip database

As things stand, the theft of a dog is treated no more seriously than the theft of a mobile phone despite the utter heartbreak it causes – making it a low-risk crime as well as a profitable one. Campaigner are trying to change this by making dog theft a specific offence whose punishment fits the crime; you can sign the petition here.

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