Dog theft in the UK

Rohan Mathew

There’s no denying that a dog can make a house a home.

After a long, tiring day at work, you walk through the door to be greeted by a four-legged ball of fur – and saliva. You’ll always have a welcoming committee with a dog in the house, that’s for sure.

These instinctive animals pick up on the slightest change in your mood and can tell when you’re feeling down. Unlike stroppy teenagers, they don’t answer you back either!

But more recently, pets have provided companionship and consistency when we’ve needed it the most. And as the number of dog thefts has increased rapidly amid lockdown in the UK, we thought we’d recap the basics of pet security and offer a few helpful tips to keep your beloved furry friend safe.

Why are dogs being stolen?

With more people working remotely, and everyone spending more time at home, the demand for puppies has risen exponentially over lockdown, as has the cost of buying one.

Sadly, many breeders couldn’t (ethically) keep up with this demand, which led to gangs stealing dogs – particularly female pedigree breeds – so they could be sold to intensive breeding farms.

Any dog breed can be a target for an opportunistic dog thief, but often they opt for the ones that are more popular and deemed fashionable, i.e. French Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Labradoodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. 

Another reason why dogs are being stolen (even as the restrictions are easing) is ransom money. For example, if burglars suspect you’re wealthy, they could target your property and take your pet in the hope of a large cash pay-out if they return it.

How are dogs being stolen?

When you bring a new pet into your family home, it’s only natural that you want to spoil it and show it off to everyone on Instagram. However, the police say that you should be wary of posting cute snaps with your latest addition that could reveal your location, and never leave them unattended. 

Here we look at some of the most common ways dogs are being stolen in the UK:

  • From gardens – we’d all like to think that our fur-friends are perfectly safe doing their business and playing with their toys in the garden, but low fences make it easy for thieves to climb over. In fact, a recent Census survey revealed that more than 50% of dogs were stolen from their owner’s back garden!
  • From cars – under no circumstances should a dog be left alone in a car – even if you leave the window open slightly to allow some air in. All too often, we see dogs dying of heatstroke in the press. Plus, leaving them inside the vehicle unattended is a golden opportunity for dog thieves.
  • In the park – many people allow their dogs to run free off their leads – fetching a ball and playing with other dogs in the park. But if yours decides to run out of view, it gives someone the chance to take them without you seeing them.
  • Tied up outside a shop – whether you’re popping into the local convenience store for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread or picking up a prescription from the chemist, fastening your dog up outside is not recommended. Someone could quite easily take a shine to your dog and untie them.
  • Chalk marks – a relatively new trend of dog thieves is to mark your home (usually your garden fence) with chalk to let gang members know that you have a dog. They knock on your door when you’re out, and if they hear a dog bark, they’ll make a chalk marker.
  • On the street – there have been numerous reports of thieves driving around in unmarked vans, keeping an eye out for dogs. Some even add an RSPCA sticker to the vehicle and attempt to seize dogs from people’s homes. 

Tips to prevent your dog from being stolen

#1 Don’t give too much away

Having a dog and taking it for walks is a great way to meet people (including other dog walkers and pet lovers). 

Although you might think they’re just being friendly, if they are asking too many questions for your liking, remove yourself from the situation. They could be trying to figure out whether your dog is worth stealing.

#2 Switch up your walks

Once you find a lovely route, it’s easy to stick with it – but opportunistic criminals can use this to their advantage and plan a potential theft. 

Our best advice is to find a couple of routes both you and your dog enjoy and mix them up. You’ll find it’s a lot less tedious too!

#3 Make sure your dog is microchipped

Since 2016, it has been a legal requirement for all dogs (over 8 weeks) to be microchipped. Though this won’t necessarily stop your dog from being stolen, it will identify them so you can be reunited. 

#4 Beware of social media

Getting a cute, cuddly puppy is exciting and you want to let all your friends know about your newest family member, but try not to overshare. 

Remember, if your social media account isn’t private, everyone can see what you post – making it known that you have a gorgeous new pet at your abode.

#5 Invest in new locks 

Upgrading the locks is probably the last thing on your mind when you bring a new pet into the house – but it will help to keep them safe and secure. 

Although you should always double-check the windows and doors are locked before going to bed or leaving the house, having new window locks fitted will give you the peace of mind that burglars can’t let themselves in through the window and steal your dog. Whereas high-security door locks will make it difficult for criminals to pick them and gain access to your property, possessions, and pet!

You’ll find a fantastic range of locks online at LockShop Direct – including night latches, mortice locks, anti-snap cylinders, window espags and handles – from renowned brands, such as Yale, ERA, ASEC, and more.