Sadly, dog theft is on the increase. With puppies and dogs so easily bought and sold on the internet and via classified ads, activities such as dog fighting, the popularity of certain breeds and an abundance of unscrupulous breeders, dog theft is not likely to go away any time soon.
Certain breeds are more vulnerable than others, depending on trends and what the perpetrator wants the dog for, but all dog owners of all breeds and cross breeds need to be aware of the risks of dog theft and safeguard their dog from being stolen as best they can.
Be aware and stay vigilant Don’t dismiss the risk of dog theft. It can and does happen. The cases we hear about on the news and via social media are just the tip of the iceberg. Be aware of dog theft, be aware that it can happen anywhere, even in your area and that it can happen to you.
On walks be vigilant when it comes to strangers watching you or your dog, anyone approaching your dog or anyone acting suspiciously. Be wary of anyone who tries to engage in conversation that centres around your dog e.g. questions such as “what are they called, how old are they, what breed are they” and even anyone asking if you live locally and often visit that area. It’s sad, I know, to have to be so cautious... but sadly necessary.
Keep your dog safe when out Keep your dog on lead in new places. If your dog goes off lead on well-known walks, make sure your dog’s recall is perfect and keep them in your sight at all times.
Never leave your dog outside a shop, even if you are just quickly popping in for a few items. Similarly, never leave your dog unattended in a car or anywhere they could be taken. If you wouldn’t leave your wallet or baby there, don’t leave your dog there either.
Carry a rape alarm or similar and make sure it is quickly and easily accessible. If anyone tries to snatch your dog, a blast of the alarm may be enough to scare them off and/or attract attention. Walk in pairs or a group when possible and always have your mobile phone handy in case of emergencies. Change your routine so you are not walking your dog in the same place at the same time every day.
Use your dog community One of the things we all love about dog ownership are the other dog owning people we meet on our regular walks. Use that community to protect each other from dog theft. Get chatting with your fellow dog walkers about the risks of dog theft. Agree between you that you will look out for each other. If someone different will be walking your dog one day, let your dog friends know and all agree that you will stay alert to any strangers seen near or with each others dogs.
Keep your dog safe at home Make sure your dog is supervised even when in the garden, especially a front garden from where they could be snatched. If you are going out, make sure your dog doesn’t have unlimited access to the garden unless it is very secure and no one can get in and steal your dog. Don’t leave your dog home alone with workmen or any strangers that have access to your home, no matter how nice they may seem.
Identify your dog By law your dog must wear an identity tag, with very few exceptions. Make sure your dog always wears a quality dog ID tag with all the correct details on it, as required by law. Check that the details are current and are still clear and readable. For more information please visit Dog Identification and the UK Law.
I keep dog tags on my dogs at all times, even in the house. If your dog escapes or is stolen from home and is not wearing their tag you will be in for a whole heap of trouble and heartache. Buy a nice comfortable house collar for your dog if you are worried about their daily comfort, and attach a tag to it for wearing always.
Highly recommended is that your dog be microchipped. This will become UK law in April 2016 (see Compulsory Dog Microchipping From 2016). If your dog is not yet chipped, why wait until 2016! Get your dog chipped now and give yourself peace of mind. If you are delaying due to the expense, many dog charities are offering free chipping. For example, Dogs Trust are organising a number of free events across the UK. For a list please visit Chip My Dog - Events.
If your dog is already chipped, make sure their microchip details are up to date. If you can’t recall who your dog’s chip is with or how to update the details, please see How To Check Your Dog's Microchip Details.
What to do if your dog is stolen If the worst does happen and your dog gets stolen or lost, know what to do. See Lost Dog - Things You Can Do.
Why would anyone steal my dog? There are plenty of reasons why any dog is at risk of theft. Dogs can be stolen for:
- Breeding - Sale - Fighting
An entire bitch or dog can produce puppies for ready cash, so neutering your dog is worth considering.
Popular or trendy breeds can be sold easily via many sources like the internet and classified adverts in shop and newspapers. This again is easy cash for the thief.
Dog fighting is an illegal activity that sadly still happens. Dogs are trained and coaxed into fighting each other, as a sick sport. If your dog is more a lover than a fighter, they are still not safe from being stolen for a dog fighting ring. Placid dogs are still taken and used as bait dogs, for the fighting dogs to practice on.
Is there anything else we can do to stop dog theft? Never buy dogs or puppies from unreliable sources. You simply don’t know where the dogs have come from or what condition the puppies are in. A really worthwhile campaign is Where's Mum? Campaign. Please spread the word. If no one buys then people will stop selling (and stealing to sell). Adopt a rescue dog from a reputable rehoming centre or buy a pup from a reputable breeder, making sure of course that you see the pup’s Mum.
If you adopt a dog, buy a dog or acquire a dog in some other way… please get the dog scanned for a chip. That dog might have a broken-hearted owner looking for it.
Don’t let dog theft ruin the fun you have with your dog. Awareness is always the key so just by reading this you are already well on your way to keeping your best friend safe from theft.