Since the beginning of the pandemic dog thefts have been on the rise. This is due to the demand for dogs increasing, as people look to gain a companion, and pushing up the prices of dogs. Of course, a dog thief doesn’t know or care if you have purchased or adopted a dog so long as they can sell them on for cash. Devon & Cornwall police have some great advice for preventing dog theft, and advice on what to do if you think your dog has been stolen:
Preventing Dog Theft
- Ensure your garden is secure. Try and break into your own back garden…can you do it? Gates needs to be bolted top and bottom, and with a bolt and padlock at centre height on the inside. Ensure sheds are locked securely so the tools inside cannot be used to break the padlock off your gates.
- Check fencing regularly, especially after bad weather. Also check the boundaries for holes. Keep an eye on your dog when you let them out into the garden, especially if you have a larger garden with areas hidden from view.
- Ideally, have security lighting and CCTV or a home camera system (such as Nest or Ring) outside your property. If you cannot afford CCTV, then you can still display signs warning that you do (just avoid signs that carry the brand of security system you use, as this can help intruders access your system).
- Do not leave your dog outside overnight or if you are away from the property during the day.
- Do not use the type of sign outside your property that displays your dog’s breed, for example, ‘Beware my Greyhound lives here’. This can make your dog a target for thieves who are ‘stealing to order’.
- If you move house or change your phone number, update your details with your microchip company straight away. If you bought your dog from a breeder that registered their dogs with an ear tattoo, keep the paperwork in a safe place and keep a photo of the tattoo.
- If you leave your dog with a sitter, do your research. Do not simply use the cheapest person/service. If possible, use a trusted family member or friend, or ask for recommendations. Double check reviews if necessary to ensure they are genuine.
Out & About
- Never leave your dog in your car. Only leave your dog outside shops if someone can wait with them – even if you only intend to be a couple of minutes. If this is not possible, it is safer to leave your dog at home.
- When out walking, vary your route. If you walk the same route most days, walk the opposite way on occasion. Walk with friends if possible. Avoid walking in the dark by yourself if possible.
- Do not let your dog off the lead unless you have 100% recall. Invest in a long line (or equine lunge line) if necessary. Even if your dog does have perfect recall, keep them in sight at all times, making a game of asking them to ‘check in’ with you for treats or a game.
- If your dog approaches people, call them back before they have a chance to do so. Some people are scared of dogs so will appreciate this. If people are encouraging your dog over to them, then call your dog back straight away, especially if they are near a vehicle.
- Beware of talking to strangers too much about your dog. Do not give their name or alternatively, give a false one that sounds very different to your actual dog’s name if you do not want to appear rude.
- Ensure your mobile phone is charged and take it with you. Check the phone signal especially if walking in a remote area.
- Do not display your dog’s name on their ID tag. The collar should have the owner’s name, address and phone number.
- Check your social media privacy settings. Only accept friends that you know and trust. View your profile as public so you can see what anyone can see who may be looking at your page and ensure there are no photos on view of your dog(s). Ensure location is turned off when posting any photos to your private page.
- If you have a local Facebook group for your village/town then consider joining it. Dog walkers will often warn other dog walkers on these sites if they see suspicious behaviour.
- Take photos of your dog from every angle, showing coat patterns and any distinguishing features or marks. If your dog is a breed that is common, take a close-up photo of their teeth. Make sure to include any broken teeth or gaps from missing teeth.
What to do if you think your dog has been stolen
If your dog has gone missing
Firstly, work out whether your dog has been stolen or has got lost. Check with your immediate neighbours and ask them to check their gardens and garages. Search the neighbourhood, get friends and fellow dog walkers involved if necessary. Give them instructions on what to do if they find your dog (for example not approaching if your dog is nervous).
If you still can’t find your dog, call:
- The dog warden, who may have picked them up.
- The microchip company and let them know it is missing.
- Your local vets and rescue centres so they are aware.
If you are out on a walk and your dog disappears, it is worth being aware that dogs usually circle back by scent if they have become disorientated.
- Leave your coat or an item of clothing nearby so they can find your scent and then walk back to your car/home – it is not uncommon for a dog to make its way back to your car or home.
- Show a photo of your dog (keep a recent one on your phone) to everyone you pass and ask if they have seen your dog on its own or with someone else. Tell them you have left your coat/clothing and ask them not to remove it.
- Call warmly and excitedly to your dog so they know they are not in trouble. If they are not at your car or at home, return to your left item of clothing.
If your dog is still nowhere in sight:
- Call the dog warden to inform them it is missing
- Inform Dog Lost – ASAP. They will put your dog’s details and pictures out on Social Media. Call 01633 673859. Web site https://www.doglost.co.uk/contact-us.php email email@example.com
- Put the word out on local Facebook groups and dog walking groups including a photo of your dog.
- Call your local radio station and ask if they will put a shout out for you.
- Call your microchip company to tell them.
If your dog is being stolen
If someone physically takes your dog from you or you see them putting your dog into a vehicle:
- Shout loudly that the dog is being stolen to attract attention.
- Take photos or video of the theft if you can.
- Call 999 and report it to police, provide information about where you are, a description of the person involved, make, model, colour and registration of the vehicle and their direction of travel. If you have photos or video, also ask for a crime number.
- Take the contact details of any witnesses and find out if they recorded the incident too.
- Call your microchip company and report the dog as stolen.
- Report to missing animal websites such as those listed below:
Use as many social media platforms as possible. Use a good clear photo of your dog, give a detailed description of exactly what happened and where. Ensure you make your post public and ask that it is shared. Make a missing poster and print it off. Ask people to display it in shop windows and public houses (with owners’ permission). Inform your local paper/radio station and ask they put out an appeal for any information from the public.
If you put up a reward for information, beware of meeting people who could be trying to scam you. Give them your crime number and ask that they email the information to the Police. Check sites that sell dogs and puppies to see if your dog has been put up for sale. Dogs of all breeds and ages are selling very fast at the moment so it is important to check these sites regularly.
A few of the most popular are:
Also consider checking marketplaces websites such as Gumtree and Facebook.