In the UK there has been a 150% increase in Google searches for “buy a puppy” since the first lockdown. This indicates an almost manic desire by some people to adopt a pet dog. This attitude has been brought about by coronavirus. The lockdowns have encouraged people to buy a dog which has forced up prices to unimaginable levels which in turn has turned the humble domestic dog into a valuable asset to be stolen by organised gangs. Under these stark conditions, which I have discussed quite a lot on this website, this page touches on how to protect your dog. The following suggestions are made:
- Avoid leaving your dog tied up outside a shop. This makes them vulnerable and quite obviously a natural target for opportunistic thieves;
- Don’t leave your dog alone in the car even for a few minutes because thieves can break into your car and steal your dog;
- Microchipping is essential in order to help establish ownership and the details on the microchip should be kept up to date. Please note however that thieves show no compunction in cutting out microchips from the neck of the dogs that they have stolen. And if they can’t do it the microchips don’t tend to protect owners because they are out of date or they are not scanned by veterinarians. There is a current campaign going on to make it mandatory for veterinarians and council officials to scan for microchips at every opportunity;
- It would wise if you placed a collar with an ID tag with your name and address on it around your dog’s neck;
- You should photograph your dog from all angles and make a note of any distinguishing features in order to help reunite yourself with your dog in the event of him or her being stolen;
- When you’re walking your dog it may be wise to take photographs with you as proof of ownership;
- Never let your dog off the lead in public until you are sure that they can obey your call which means you should train them to return when called;
- Your back garden i.e. backyard, should be secure and there could be a bell on the gate so that you know if anybody opens it and enters;
- Your dog should be in view by you when they are in the garden and they should never be left outside unsupervised;
- Be wary if a stranger ask questions about your dog or films your dog when you are out walking with him or her;
- Walking with a dog is one of the great pleasures of life and a necessity for the dog but the times and routes should be varied to confound potential thieves as some thefts take place during dog walking.
And if despite your best efforts your dog is stolen the following details may be useful to you:
Don’t expect the police to help. The theft of a dog is no different to the theft of a computer or any other inanimate item and the police in the UK are disdainful about the crime of theft. They have declared to the world years ago that any theft from a shop at or under £200 and they will not come out to deal with it and will not prosecute it. A dog with a value of less than £500 is treated as a category four theft which is the lowest category and which rarely leads to a custodial sentence if it ever gets to conviction which is almost impossible to imagine. One percent of dog theft cases investigated in England and Wales end up in court. A shocking figure, I am sure you will agree.
The stories that I have read from owners who have lost their dogs through theft clearly indicates to me that the police are apathetic about this crime. They don’t seem to be switched on to how devastating it can be to owners. For example, Laura lost her elderly dog, Spillo, on the front drive of her home. She used social media extensively and was impressed with the concern of the local people but she said that that concern was in stark contrast to the police’s handling of the case. She spent £25,000 or thereabouts searching for her dog and has used the well-known Dog Detective. You can look him up online. His name is Mr Butcher. It’s almost not worth bothering reported the matter to the police unless of course you want a crime number to make an insurance claim.
Social media i.e. Facebook primarily, is probably one of the best way to try and get your dog back because social media news can spread effectively in the correct groups (e.g. groups dealing exclusively with stolen dogs). Your stolen dog may have been sold to somebody who uses social media, picks up the information and then contacts you to return the dog. Sometimes they don’t return the dog because they’ve become attached to him or her. Sometimes stolen dogs end up at rescue centres which can cause complications as well.