More than 4 dogs are stolen every day in the UK with 1,800 dogs having been stolen in the last 18 months. West Yorkshire, London and Kent are hotspots with more than 10 dogs being stolen every month. Dog thefts increased 16% from 186 in 2014 to 217 in 2015. Dogs are stolen every day from cars, from outside shops and from gardens and kennels. 494 dogs are being offered for sale today on just two popular web sites, purportedly from a 3.5 miles square area of London where there is not a single legally licensed breeder. Most will be from back street breeders and puppy farms and some may be stolen.
Although dogs are stolen to order by professional thieves, the most common thefts are by opportunists. The easiest way to foil them is not to give them the opportunity.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a garden, in a car or outside a shop or cafe even for a moment (even if not stolen, dogs get distressed, can be a nuisance to other dogs and are at risk from unwanted interference from strangers)
- Train and reinforce good recall throughout your dog’s life – if you don’t know how, employ a qualified, non-aversive trainer. If you have the slightest doubt about your dog’s recall, use a long line. No dog will ever have 100% recall but it will certainly be a lot less reliable without some work on your part
- Make sure that your dog wears a collar when he is out with a secure tag or plate showing clearly your name and address including a full postcode and ideally a contact number (this is a legal requirement under the Control of Dogs Order 1992)
- Make sure that your dog is microchipped, check periodically that the chip is working correctly and keep the database up to date with your latest contact details (this is a legal requirement under the Control of Dogs Order 1992)
- Keep your dog under control on a lead when walking along the road (this is a legal requirement under the Road Traffic Act 1988, Clause 27)
- Pay attention to your dog at all times. If you are more interested in your children, your mobile telephone or chatting to your friends, your dog is more likely to wander off and be at risk. Take every opportunity to enjoy your dog – he won’t be there forever
- If you need to board your dog, even for the day, check that the boarder is licensed (this is a legal requirement under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963) and fully insured (not just 3rd party) – dogs have been stolen by people posing as walkers and boarders and many are lost by incompetent handlers
- Ditch the extendable lead and teach your dog to walk on a slack lead to heel
- Campaign to make more places dog friendly and don’t go to places where your dog is not welcome unless your dog is at home
- Support campaigns such as Four Paws who campaign internationally to stop puppy farming and to regulate internet sales of animals – if there is no market for stolen dogs, they will not be stolen
- Spread the word about why dogs should not be bought from pet shops or online.