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How to prevent pet theft

We take so much care when looking after our home and the possessions inside, but what about our pets? While we might think we’re keeping them safe, there could be glaring gaps in your protection that leave opportunities for potential thieves.

Our dogs and other pets are just as vulnerable as TVs and iPads, so with that in mind, below is a guide on how you can keep them safe and prevent pet theft.

Dog theft and the law

Unfortunately for many devoted dog owners, there is currently no specific offence related to dog theft that can be logged with the police. Because the majority of dogs are worth less than £500, their theft is classed as a ‘low-level’ crime and therefore very rarely receives a proper follow up, which makes it a high-reward crime for the thieves involved.

This means that dog owners, and other pet owners, really need to focus on prevention rather than relying on the ‘cure’, so to speak.

Why do people steal dogs and pets?

No dog is safe from theft, although higher value and pedigree breeds are more at risk. Here’s a few reasons why people target dogs and pets.

Breeding - Some thieves use stolen dogs, particularly those who are pedigree, on puppy farms to produce more of that breed

Ransom - Sometimes a monetary ransom will be demanded for their pet to be returned safely, taking advantage of the owner’s vulnerability

Selling - Unfortunately many owners won’t dig too deeply into the background of the dog they are buying, and so stolen pets can disappear quickly with the thieves making a profit

Fighting - Despite being illegal, dog fighting still takes place and stolen dogs are often used as bait

How to prevent pet theft

1. Microchipping

Make sure your pets are microchipped. It’s a quick and easy procedure that can be performed at the vets, and it’s not just dogs that can benefit. Cats and even rabbits can be microchipped. Just be sure to keep your contact details and address up-to-date, especially if you move house. Remember that UK law states that dogs must be microchipped by the time they are eight weeks old.

2. Collar

Dogs must have a collar and tag on when they are in public, but it’s also a good idea to have them on when you’re home, just in case they break out and run. Don’t forget to collar and tag your cats too if they like to explore. Put your name and address on the tag, a mobile number is also a good idea but avoid putting your dog’s name on it.

3. Have pictures

Having pictures of you and your dog, or pet, together is a good idea to help you prove ownership if this is ever called into question. Make sure your dog is well trained, especially to return to you when you call for it, and never let them off the lead unless you can be absolutely sure that they will come back to you. And always keep them on the lead if you are in an unfamiliar area.

You should also take pictures of your dog from different angles, as this can help with identification. If you have them from a puppy, make sure you take new ones regularly as they grow up quickly! Make a note of any unique and distinguishing features they have.

4. Secure your garden

Make sure your garden is as safe and secure as possible, especially if your dog spends a lot of time out there or has free access in and out of the house. Have a gate across your driveway - one that your dog can’t jump over! - that has a bell attached so you can hear if anyone opens it.

If you have rabbits in a hutch in the garden, or if you want to have eyes on all areas of your property throughout the day, consider installing home security cameras to monitor key points. You could direct them towards the gate and the wider garden, or the hutch if you do have rabbits. That way, in the unfortunate event that something does happen, you have as much evidence as possible on who committed the crime. Also, cameras and warning signs can be a huge put-off for potential thieves. Remember, prevention is better than ‘cure’ when it comes to pet theft.

For more ideas on how to secure the outside of your property, take a peek at our guide to garden security.

5. Take care on walks

Try to avoid leaving your dog tied up outside a shop. We understand that sometimes this is unavoidable but try to have someone you trust wait with them. Dogs left alone outside shops where you can’t see them make for incredibly vulnerable and tempting targets. The same goes for leaving your dog in the car alone.

Try to vary the times and routes that you take for your walks. Believe it or not, some dogs - particularly high value pedigrees - will be targeted, watched and then taken on their predictable walks. Keep your schedule random.

What to do if your pet is stolen

If the worst does happen and your pet is stolen, it’s important to act quickly and do as much as you can to try and recover them safely.

  • Report the suspected theft to your local council’s dog warden and any other local authorities
  • Visit local parks or places you see other dog walkers and ask if they have seen them or if they could keep a lookout
  • Report it to the police and insist it is reported as a theft as opposed to a lost animal and make sure you receive a crime reference number
  • Report the theft to your microchip database. Not only will this ensure that nobody can re-register the chip number to their name and address, they can also track your animal this way
  • Inform local vets in your area in case it is brought in for treatment
  • Losing an animal is every pet owner’s worst nightmare, but as we stated earlier, it’s important that you do as much as you can to protect your pet and keep them safe before anything happens. Follow these steps above to give you peace of mind that you’re looking after your pet as much as possible.