How to prevent puppy and dog theft in the UK

It’s so important to do everything you can to prevent your dog or puppy from being stolen.

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Our dogs are precious members of our families and loyal companions. The thought of our beloved four-legged friends being stolen is unbearable and losing them can be extremely traumatic – which is why it’s so important to do everything you can to prevent your dog or puppy from being stolen.

In this article we explain the ways to protect your dog or puppy from theft, including:

  • Why identifying your dog is so important
  • How to keep your dog safe at home and on walks
  • Which dogs and puppies are more likely to be stolen
  • What to do if your dog or puppy is stolen

Importance of dog and puppy identification

Make sure your dog is fitted with a microchip by the time it is eight weeks old. It is Government requirement to do this – and you could be fined up to £5,000 if your dog is not microchipped. It costs around £10-£15 to have your dog microchipped by a vet or vet nurse. Some dog groomers and dog trainers can microchip your dog too – but make sure whoever does it is fully trained and qualified to do so.

Make sure your dog has an ID tag which includes your name, address and telephone number. If your dog has been neutered or spayed, include this on the tag too as it will deter thieves who want to steal dogs to breed from. Having an ID tag is also a legal requirement, which can lead to a hefty fine up to £5,000. If your dog is found without an ID tag in a public place they can be seized and classed as a ‘stray’. It only costs a few pounds to get an ID tag and they can even be engraved instantly some pet stores.

Keep up-to-date photographs of your dog taken from various angle which can easily identify them. Make sure these are retaken before and after any grooming trips and make a note of any distinguishing features, such as markings or eye colour.

Never put your dog’s name on an ID tag as this will allow potential thieves to familiarise themselves with your dog, lure your dog over to them and increase the chances of your dog being stolen.

How to keep your dog or puppy safe in your house

Make sure your garden is dog-friendly by checking your boundaries are secure and there’s gap in a hedge or fence for your dog to escape. Also make sure there’s no way of your dog digging under a fence and disappearing without you knowing!

Lock your gates and even put a bell on them so you can hear if anyone manages to open it.

Install CCTV which overlooks your garden to deter thieves. This doesn’t have to be too expensive and can make your whole house and garden more secure.

Do not leave your dog unsupervised especially in a front garden as these are particularly vulnerable to dog thieves. Make sure your dog is always in view so they’re not taken by an opportunist dog thief.

How to prevent dog or puppy being stolen whilst out on walks

Beware of strangers approaching your dog and asking questions about them.

Always keep your dog in sight in case they run after something and get lost or injured. There have also been incidents of people luring dogs away from their owners and being snatched.

Be vigilant of your surroundings at all times and try not to get distracted by using your mobile phone, listening to music or chatting to a friend.

Walk with a friend or neighbour if possible, especially if your walks are more remote. Remember to always keep an eye on your dog though.

Try and stagger the time and location you walk your dog so potential thieves don’t see you walking and know when to turn up again at the same time and place to try and pinch your pooch.

GPS trackers can be fitted to your dog’s collar or harness and are a great option to consider.

 

Never leave your dog tied up outside a shop no matter how safe you think an area is – or if you have been there lots of times before. You never know who may walk or drive past and a dog tied up alone is the ideal opportunity for a dog thief.

Never leave your dog in a car alone as dog thieves can break in within seconds and pinch your beloved pet. Not only that, dogs can quickly overheat – even in dull weather – which can be fatal.

Don’t let your dog off a lead if you’re unsure they’ll come back as they can quickly get out of sight, lost and then potentially stolen or injured. Use a long lead to master your recall training before you let your dog off the lead and you’re confident they’ll come back to you.

Ensuring your dog or puppy isn’t stolen whilst being cared for by someone else

If you need someone to walk or care for your puppy or dog whilst you’re at work or going on holiday, make sure you do your research. Use a reputable dog walker, dog sitter or boarding kennels, which has valid insurance. Also ask for references from people offering in-house services.

How social media can result in dog and puppy theft

It’s tempting to show off your puppy or dog having fun on a walk and you taking them to new place. Most of the time this will be harmless – however, if you’re not careful, these posts can give dog thieves information about when and where to steal your four-legged best friend. The following tips should help you to keep safe when you’re online:

Keep your privacy settings on and avoid putting too much information in your posts about your dog, where you live, when you work.

Blur out your dog’s ID tag if you can see it on your posts so people can’t see where you live or what your telephone number is.

Remain suspicious of strangers asking questions about your dog – they may seem innocent, but they may also be dog thieves trying to identify opportunities for their next canine robbery.

Types and breeds of dog which are more likely to be stolen

The number of people buying dogs has soared over the past 12 months, with a total of 3.2 million households in the UK acquiring a pet since the start of the pandemic*. Subsequently though, the cost of buying a puppy has also surged with the average price of a puppy now a whopping £1,875**.

The increase in cost of puppies and dogs has also resulted in an increase in the theft of dogs with thieves targeting the most popular and expensive breeds to then sell on for even more money.

But which are currently the most expensive and valuable dog breeds in the UK**?

Breed

Current value

English Bulldog

£2,995

Cavapoo

£2,949

Miniature Dachshund

£2,537

Cockapoo

£2,471

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

£2,458

French Bulldog

£2,389

Pomeranian

£2,247

Dachshund

£2,242

Cocker Spaniel

£2,230

Labrador Retriever

£1,948

English Springer Spaniel

£1,602

German Shepherd

£1,589

Yorkshire Terrier

£1,459

Shih Tzu

£1,443

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

£1,316

Chihuahua

£1,250

*Source: Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association
**Source: Pets4Homes

How to make sure a puppy or dog you buy hasn’t been stolen

Find your new dog through a registered breeder or reputable rescue organisation or animal charity.

Check the welfare and condition of the dog when you visit to make sure its healthy and ask to see relevant paperwork.

Check the dog has been microchipped. Remember all puppies should be microchipped at eight weeks old.

If you’re buying a puppy from a breeder, always ask to see the puppy with its mum at home – even if it’s via a video call.

Never buy a dog from an advert on social media or classified website.

Never pay a deposit or agree to buy a puppy or dog without meeting it in person.

If you have any suspicions any dog you see may be stolen, report your concerns to the police by calling 101 – don’t buy it.

What to do if your dog is lost or stolen

Losing or having your dog stolen can be very traumatic and cause you to panic. But there are lots of things you can do to make people aware and hopefully ensure your favourite four-legged friend makes it home:

  • If you think your dog has been stolen then call the police straight away and report is as a theft so you get a crime reference number.
  • Report the incident to the database your dog’s microchip is registered to. Then if your dog is found and scanned, you can be alerted straight away.
  • Call your local and neighbouring dog wardens. These details can be found on the relevant local authorities’ websites.
  • Contact local vets and give them a description of your dog so they know to contact you straight away if someone takes your dog to them for treatment.
  • Get in touch with local dog shelters and animal charities to see if your dog has been found straying and picked up.
  • Visit popular dog walking spots in the local area where your dog went missing. Ask other dog walkers if they’ve seen your pooch and give them your contact details in case they see or hear anything.
  • Create posters which include a photo of your dog, details of the circumstances and your contact details. Display them in your local area, shops, vets, parks, pubs and display boards etc.
  • Post details about the event on social media and ask people to share your posts to gain as much awareness as possible.
  • Contact a reporter at your local newspaper and see if they will publish a story about what’s happened to your dog to let even more people know.
  • Report the loss/theft to as many missing animal websites as possible using the same information to create a widespread appeal.

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