Dog theft has been on the increase for some time with thieves understanding exactly the amount of blackmail they can levy for the emotional distress suffered by owners.
DogLost has just circulated an alert about a scam that has seen 70 incidents reported to police across the country and that seems to be prevalent in Mersyside. Of course, it is imopssible to know how many incidents have not been reported, not least because drastic cuts to policing throughout the country make reporting difficult and make people feel as if it is not worth reporting anything if they think that no effective action will be taken.
The Insurance Emporium examined reported dog thefts between 2015 and 2017 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, finding a general rise of 2% in England and wales and a drop of 25% in Northern Ireland. The most commonly stolen dogs in 2017 were:
- Staffordshire bull terriers
- French bulldogs
- Jack Russell terriers.
Yorkshire and the north-west of England had by far the highest incidences of recent dog theft in England and Wales, perhaps reflecting relative poverty as well as the distribution of dog ownership across the country. Wales had by far the lowest, again reflecting the relative distribution of population and dog ownership. West Midlands police recorded a 24% fall in reported thefts between 2016 and 2017, while the East Midlands force reported a 43% rise. Again, this only reflects the thefts that were reported, not necessarily the prevalence.
The Campaign group Pet Theft Awareness are calling for relatively minor changes to existing legislation to assist in preventing theft and in making the offence more serious, which could also lead to tougher sanctions on conviction.
Many vets will automatically scan patients and owners can and should ask for chips to be checked as they can fail or migrate, although this is rare. However, the resistance of the BVA amongst others to making this compulsory is not unfounded. It is not reasonable to expect vets to take on the duties that should be undertaken by dog wardens because it blurs the line between clinical care and policing and could place the vet in a position of expending a great deal of (unpaid) time if an animal is indeed suspected of being illegally imported or stolen.
It is important therefore, that we continue to put pressure on government at all levels to make adequate provision for supporting existing legislation with adequate resources, not least the new requirements introduced in October.
As ever, the best remedy is prevention:
- Keep your microchip details up to date (this is a legal obligation)
- Make sure that you have a correctly inscribed tag on your dog’s collar and that your dog always wears a collar and tag when out (this is a legal obligation unless you have a dog that is working by herding, hunting or picking up game)
- Neuter unless you have a very good reason not to so that your dog is less attractive to potential puppy farmers
(clinical, showing etc)
- Be on your guard if asked about the cost of your dog or the gender and tell the enquirer that your dog is neutered
- Train for reliable recall and reinforce periodically
- Supervise your dog as much as possible and ensure that doors, fences and gates are secure by checking regularly for damage and keeping your dog in sight during building works or if doors could be left open by visitors
- Don’t leave your dog unattended in a garden even if in a kennel
- Don’t leave your dog unattended in public, including in a car.
Take responsibility for keeping your dog safe and secure – and not just at Christmas.
If the worst happens and your dog is stolen, report it to police and to DogLost and do not be tempted to pay a ransom or accede to another demand such as collecting the dog. If your dog is insured, you may find that your insurers will cover the cost of publicity and some even provide templates. You can also take out enhanced cover from some microchip companies that provide this service.