In the UK, on average roughly 2000 dogs are stolen each year and sadly only 1 in 5 stolen dogs are ever reunited with their owners and even worse only 5% of reported dog thieves that are caught are actually convicted. In 2020, mostly due to the UK lockdown, more and more people have been buying dogs and this in turn has led to more dog theft. Incredibly, dog theft went up 250% in the UK last year, so it’s important you know how to keep your dog safe. We will go through all the facts concerning dog theft and all the ways you can keep your dog safe.
Why is dog theft happening?
The demand for puppies has gone up exponentially over lockdown, breeders cannot keep up with this demand (not ethically anyway). This then leads to gangs taking advantage of the gap in the markets and stealing dogs to order. Distressingly, lots of pedigree dogs are stolen from family homes and sold to intensive breeding farms; it seems criminals can make as much money stealing puppies as they can from stealing cars. The cost of puppies is also on the rise, with puppies costing anywhere from £2000 upwards.
Another reason for dog theft, which has been in the press recently, is ransom money. In February 2021 Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs were stolen while out for exercise with her dog walker. A ransom was not demanded from the singer, but she did offer a $500,000 reward for their safe return. This may have caused potential dog thieves to see this as a new opportunity. If they suspect the owner is wealthy, then they could target them in hopes of a large ransom pay out.
Most Stolen dog breeds
While it’s true that any dog breed can be a target for dog theft from an opportunistic dog thief. More organised gangs will be targeting dogs that they can get the most money for. It’s an undeniable fact that different dog breeds become more popular and ‘fashionable’ at any given time, and if there is a high demand for a certain breed, thieves are more likely to be looking for them.
It can change year on year depending on which dogs are most popular at the time, but you often see the same sort of dogs being stolen year on year.
This breed is currently one of the most popular in the UK, so much so breeders cannot keep up with the surge in demand. They often sell for £2000 or more, so these make them one of the most at-risk breeds for stealing.
Ever since Paris Hilton started carrying one in her purse, the Chihuahuas have been an extremely popular dog in the UK. This means they are always high on the list to be stolen, their small size makes them easier to steal than say, a Golden Retriever. Even though they are very feisty, they need to be kept safe from thieves.
Everyone knows someone that’s got a Labradoodle, they’re one of the most popular dogs in the UK and the only non-pedigree dog to be on the most stolen list. They are incredible friendly by nature, so they are easy targets for thieves, as they are likely to be happy to walk off with anyone, especially if they have treats.
Staffordshire bull terrier
It might be a surprise that this dog is on the list and even more of a surprise that the staffy is often top of the list to be stolen. They are still one of the most popular dogs in the UK so are always in high demand, plus criminals can sell them to dog fighting rings.
For more information on the most commonly stolen dogs, click here.
How are dogs being stolen?
From your garden-
a census revealed that 52% of dogs are stolen from their owners back garden. Low fences make your dog an easy target, as well as if your garden is near a main road and if you leave your dog unattended in there.
From your car-
you should never leave your dog alone in your car. Dogs dying of heat stroke get a lot of press; however an unattended dog in a car is the perfect find for an opportunistic thief.
Tying your dog outside a shop-
this is the same principle as leaving your dog in the car. If someone takes a shine to your dog and sees they’ve been left unattended, then it’s a prime opportunity to swipe them.
In the park-
if your dog likes to run free off their lead, then this could be a risk. If your dog runs out of site, it gives someone the opportunity to take them while you can’t see.
it seems there is a new trend of dog thieves marking your home with chalk to let other gang members know to target your house. The thought seems to be, that they knock on your door when you are out and if they hear a dog barking, then they mark your house with chalk. In fact, marking fences to steal dogs is very common in the UK. Make sure you know what markings have been used over the years here to ensure you can spot any markings on your fence!
Read our blog on House Robbery Markings.
Fake RSPCA vans-
there have been recent reports of thieves driving around in a plain white van with an RSPCA sticker on the side, trying to seize dogs from people’s homes.
How do I stop my dog from being stolen?
Be wary of strangers-
having a dog and walking them is a great way to meet people and get out of the house. It’s more than likely that you will get talking to other dog owners and get complements on your dog. However, don’t give out too much personal information, if someone is asking too many questions then remove yourself from the situation. They could be trying to find out if your dog is a good option to steal. This is especially true if the person who approached you doesn’t have a dog.
Change up your walking route-
we are all creatures of habit and once you find a lovely route to walk your dog, it’s easy to go the same way every day. However, potential dog thieves may notice this and use it to their advantage to plan a potential theft.
Get your dog microchipped-
as of 2016 it’s the law that every dog over 8 weeks needs to be microchipped. This won’t prevent your dog being stolen, but will help your dog be identified if stolen and then recovered.
Consider getting a GPS tracker-
these wearable devices mean you can see where your dog is in real time. They are removable, so they could be removed by the thief. If your dog has been stolen and you can see their location, we do not recommend confronting the thief. It’s a criminal matter, so you will need to phone the police.
Be careful on social media-
yes, everyone wants to show off their new cute puppy to their friends on Facebook. But if you have an open account then, anyone can see that you’ve recently got a puppy, this could make you a target for theft, especially if your new puppy was expensive or is a desirable breed.
What to do if I your dog has been stolen
- If you believe your dog has been stolen, report it to the police and ask for a crime number.
- Post on social media to raise awareness of your missing dog, if someone in the local area has spotted your dog then they can let you know.
- Do not confront anyone online or in person that you suspect of stealing your dog.