It’s beyond understanding for most of us that anyone would even contemplate stealing a dog. But sadly, over the last few years, dog theft has continued to rise at a horrifying pace.
Getting accurate figures for just how many dogs have been stolen is difficult, as in general police only investigate crimes involving missing dogs if there is an associated crime, like robbery. What is apparent, however, is that in 2012, there were almost 120,000 stray dogs in the UK alone, according to estimates from the Dogs Trust survey.
Although this is a slight drop from 2011, it is a horrifying increase from the low of 97,000 in 2008. If just 2% of those dogs were stray as a result of having been stolen, that means over 2,000 dogs were the victims of dog-nappers in 2012 alone.
Sometimes, an increase in dog theft follows a spike in celebrity trends. After the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge adopted Lupo, there was a spate of thefts of cavaliers and spaniels.
Don’t think being a celebrity offers you any protection either – actress Sheridan Smith, from Gavin and Stacey and West End Stage Show Legally Blonde had her shar Pei stolen twice, although she did get her back both times.
Sometimes, criminal lowlifes think it’s funny – not to mention lucrative – to target dogs with the aim of extorting a reward out of their owners.
Sometimes dogs are stolen for breeding purposes – particularly small pedigrees. Sometimes, horrifyingly, dogs are targeted to be sold to labs for testing, used in drug smuggling, or involved in dog fights – even though dog fighting was officially banned in England and Wales in the early 19th century.
The breeds most often targeted by crooks vary from year to year, but at present the most popular dogs are spaniels (both cocker and springer), Labradors, Jack Russell and Staffordshire bull terriers, Chihuahuas, shi-tzus, lurchers, greyhounds and bulldogs.
And which areas are most at risk? Based on missing pet data, London appears to be most at risk, followed by the midlands, Northern Ireland, Wales. The South West, Scottish Borders and Highlands are least dangerous for our canine friends.
So how do you minimise the risk that your furry friend will be taken without consent?
When you’re out walking, try to stay away from isolated locations; there’s also some evidence that even dog-friendly beaches and parks where you can let Fido off the leash may be targets for dog thieves.
Make sure your pet is microchipped so he or she, and you, can be identified easily if found. From 2016 this will in any case become law in the UK. Make sure you have photographs of your dog, from every angle, and get your animal neutered. Not only is this responsible dog ownership, it makes it much less likely that your pet will be targeted for breeding purposes – especially if you store the information on a 2nd microchip.
If your dog does go missing, register the details with as many agencies as you can. It’s definitely a good idea to contact dog agencies – around 29% of dogs reported as missing are reunited with their owners when the owners contact the local authority or pound directly; a further 22% were reunited due to having a microchip.
Most importantly, don’t leave your dog alone if you can help it – whether it’s in a car, tied up outside a shop, or even outside in the back garden while you’re out at work. Look after your pet as you would any other valuable – or any other member of your family