It is difficult to get accurate figures on the number of dogs stolen due to problems with reporting and recording thefts across various police forces and local authorities. An estimated 7,300 dogs having been stolen in the last four years, meaning that at least 5 dogs are stolen every day.
However, the organisation Doglost believe that police figures should be doubled with approximately 70 dogs a week being stolen based on the missing dogs registered on their own database and the fact that police figures do not include failing to attempt to find the owner. There are 13 microchip databases that meet Government standards but they are reluctant to reveal the number of missing dogs, cats and horses that are recorded on their databases.
Whilst it is mandatory to scan and check microchip registration for deceased dogs and cats found on roads, local authority road services and Canal and River Trust do not have to check deceased pets for a microchip prior to disposing into landfill.
Vets do not have to check microchip registration on the original database at an initial consultation to establish if the animal presented is reported as missing and do not have check microchip registration on the original database at an annual health check if no prior check has been performed previously. Vets can be reluctant to act as a police force because it may affect the welfare of the animal if the client relationship is damaged. It must also be borne in mind that finding that details do not match will involve the vet in potentially complex, unpaid work.
Rescues and rehoming establishments also do not have to cross-check microchip registration when an animal has been handed-in, seized or abandoned.
Dogs are stolen every day from cars, from outside shops and from gardens and kennels. Thousands of dogs are being offered for sale on web sites, most of which will be from back- street breeders and puppy farms, and some of which may be stolen. Covid-19 restrictions have seen a massive increase in the numbers of dogs bought and sold via unscrupulous means and the number of dogs stolen to fuel the trade.
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.