Pet Theft Awareness Day: how to protect your dog

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Pet theft is a harrowing crime. The thought of someone stealing your beloved pet from the street or even your own garden is a horrifying one. However, the reality is dog thefts are on the rise and are at an all-time high in the UK thanks to outdated laws that have seen prosecutions for dog thieves fall by 70% over the last 20 years. 

In an effort to help dog owners keep their pets safe from thieves Oakpark, a home security specialist, has written this guide on preventing pet theft to coincide with Pet Theft Awareness Day on the 14th of February. By raising awareness of the risks of pet thefts and providing some tips on how you can protect against it we can help stop pet theft for good. 

Why are criminals stealing dogs?

When you are trying to protect yourself from criminals it is important to identify their motivation for the crime. Pet thieves, like most thieves, are mainly looking to make money from stolen pets. 

Triste, Cane, Animale, Animale Domestico, Brown

Some dogs, especially pedigree and “designer” dogs, can make very tempting targets for pet thieves thanks to the high value that is given to them. However, it is important to remember that thieves can make money from any breed of dog in a number of ways, such as:

  • Selling it on – Some pet buyers don’t ask many questions when it comes to the origin and past of their new pets and thieves take advantage of this to quickly sell the stolen dog to make a profit. This is one of the fastest and easiest ways for pet thieves to make money. The only way to fight this is for everyone to buy pets responsibly. 
  • Breeding puppies – The more industrial version of selling stolen dogs is breeding them and selling their puppies. Some stolen dogs are taken to “puppy farms” where they are kept in crowded and poor conditions. The more sought after and expensive breeds of dogs are more at risk here as they can provide the highest returns. Having your dog spayed or neutered can help to prevent this. 
  • Rewards & ransom – Some dog thieves have the intention to return stolen dogs to their owners, but only if they are paid in some way. This can take the form of either rewards or a ransom, depending on how sinister the criminal is. Many pet owners offer rewards when their dog is missing and some thieves pretend to have found the “lost” dog in order to claim the reward. 

How are dogs being stolen?

Majority of pet thieves are opportunistic, seizing any chance to steal a vulnerable dog that is left unattended. Here are a few of the common ways criminals are stealing dogs so you can defend against them. 

Cane, Recinzione, Rotaie, Animale Domestico, Da Vicino

  • From your garden – You might assume that your garden is perfectly safe and let your dog run around unobserved. However, The Pet Census estimated that up to 52% of stolen dogs were taken directly from their gardens. Always keep an eye on your dog when it is outside and make sure your gate is secured. 
  • When they are tied up outside shops – Many dog owners like to take their pets with them when they pop to the shops and most shops don’t let you bring your dog inside. This tends to end with dogs being left tied up outside shops for a short time. However, this leaves the dog very vulnerable to theft and thieves only need a short time to seize the opportunity. 
  • In the park or during walks – Dog parks are a prime hunting spot for dog thieves, especially when it is busy. It is easy to lose sight of your pet whilst it runs around and plays and opportunistic criminals will take advantage of the confusion to steal your pet. Make sure your pet returns to your calls before you let it off the lead in public. 
  • From a car – Leaving your dog alone in the car, even for a short while, is generally frowned upon due to the health risks involved, including heatstroke and even death. But another reason you shouldn’t do it is thieves won’t hesitate to smash your car window and steal your pet. 

The common theme here is dogs being left alone and unattended. Most dogs are inherently trusting and thieves will take advantage of your pet’s kind nature to lead it away if you are not there to stop it. Always keep an eye on your dog when you are in public. 

How to stop your dog being stolen

Now that we have covered why and how dog thieves are stealing dogs, here are some things you can do to make it harder for pet thieves and defend your pet from criminals. 

  • Don’t leave them unattended in public – As we mentioned above, most dog thefts are opportunistic and occur when the dog is left unattended in public. An easy way to prevent this is not to leave your dog unattended in public, even if it is only for a short while. 
  • Microchip your dog – Since 2016 it has been a legal requirement in the UK to have your dog microchipped if it is over 8 weeks old. This helps vets and the authorities reunite you with your lost dog once it has been found. Always make sure you keep your contact details up to date. 
  • Be wary of strangers – It is a lovely experience to receive a compliment from a stranger about your dog and the dog often enjoys the extra attention. But it pays to be wary of strangers who ask too many questions about your dog or yourself as they might be targeting your dog for theft. 
  • Include your details on their collar – It is also a legal requirement in the UK for dogs to wear a collar with your contact details on when they are in public. It helps authorities and strangers get in contact with you if they find your lost dog. Be careful not to include your dog’s name, however, as this could be used by thieves to call your dog to them. 
  • Vary your walking patterns – Habits and patterns are often exploited by criminals and dog thieves are no different. If you walk your dog at the same time at the same place each day it makes it easier for thieves to target your dog. Vary your walking patterns so that you and your dog can enjoy some new scenery. 
  • Have your dog spayed or neutered – As we previously mentioned some thieves are looking to take your dog to puppy farms to breed puppies. Having your pet spayed or neutered helps to remove this motivation. Be sure to include this information on their dog collar to put thieves off. 

What to do if your dog is stolen

If your dog is missing or you suspect that it might have been stolen the important thing is to act quickly. If you can quickly raise awareness of your missing pet then it is more likely to be found and returned by someone. 

Bambino, Cane, Piombo, Al Di Fuori, Ascolta, A Piedi

Here are some steps to follow if your dog is lost or stolen to help them be found:

  • Retrace your steps – If your dog went missing during a walk it is a good idea to retrace your steps and see if you can find where he went. Check local parks and obvious hiding spots in your area to see if you can find them. 
  • Put up posters – Putting posters up in your local area with an up to date picture of your pet with your contact details is a great way to raise awareness and increase the chances that someone might spot your dog. 
  • Use Social Media – Similarly, social media is the perfect tool for raising awareness of your lost pet. Sharing it with friends and local information groups can spread the work quickly. You would be surprised how far some of those missing pet posts can end up online.
  • Report it to your local council – Be sure to contact your local council and dog warden if your dog is missing. They often have facilities that can help you and it helps them return your lost pet faster if it is found. 
  • Contact local vets and shelters – It is also a good idea to contact places someone might take your dog if it were found, such as local vets and rescue shelters. Vets can also be on the lookout for someone attempting to bring your dog in for treatment. 
  • Tell the microchip database – If your dog is microchipped (and it should be) let the microchip database know that it is missing and check your contact details are up to date. In addition, if anyone tries to re-register the chip number they will alert you. 
  • Register your pet online – There are a number of online sites where you can register your pet as missing. They have thousands of volunteers who will then keep an eye out for your pet, increasing its chances of being found. 
  • Report it to the police – Finally, if you suspect your dog has been stolen then contact the police as dog theft is a crime. Be sure to get a crime reference number so you can easily follow up on the investigation. Be sure to help the police by giving them as much information as possible, such as a physical description of your dog, its microchip information and any details of the crime.

This is a guest essay by Dan Baker of Oakpark Group. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

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