Dog Theft – How to Reduce the risk of becoming a victim

The recent increase in cases of dog theft is horrifying. It is without a doubt a cruel and evil thing to do. Anyone engaging in this is, in my humble opinion, an absolutely heartless scumbag. The best thing about having my own blog is that I can freely express my views on the matter, and I will do so unapologetically.

As a dog mum, dog walker and pet bereavement counsellor I find it shocking that anybody would be so desperately greedy that they would cause so much distress to not just the animal but also the people left behind. It breaks my heart to think of how utterly terrified Pixie would be in that situation. Alone and scared, wondering when I’m coming to rescue her from these awful people in an unfamiliar place. Anyone who knows us would agree that we belong together, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use ‘reasonable force’ to protect her. Definitions may vary…

My heart also breaks for the human victims who have suffered at the hands of these vile individuals and gangs. I can only begin to imagine the devastation this would cause. Not only would they be experiencing the full spectrum grief emotions experienced during pet bereavement, but they would also have the added distress of not knowing what became of their beloved family member. Would those unneutered bitches be taken to a puppy farm to be bred from relentlessly in often disgustingly unhygienic conditions? Would others be sold on to unsuspecting people satisfying the demand? Victims would never reach the stage of acceptance and never gain closure unless they were lucky enough to be reunited with their companions.

So, what is causing this and what can we, as a society, do about it? Well, simply it’s the economy of supply and demand. These poor loving souls are viewed as nothing more than a commodity.  With so many people experiencing loneliness and indeed boredom during the pandemic, it has become obvious that there is an upward trend in the amount of people wanting a dog. Most people will want a new puppy or a designer/fashionable breed, which there has only been a limited number of available. At this point, unfortunately, I’m going to take a swipe at breeders. Many will know that I come from a family of KC registered Labrador breeders however my parents retired from this decades ago. Breeders have not helped this situation at all by increasing their prices for no other reason than just because they can. People are willing to pay more for the breeds they want, and that demand is being fully exploited which I find very distasteful indeed. This has had the catastrophic ripple effect of criminals stealing dogs to order to meet this demand which can not been met by breeders. Puppy farms have also sprung up and cashed in exploiting the situation further which has resulted in many people buying desperately unwell puppies which have contracted illnesses such as parvo virus and died within days of reaching their new homes. Which leaves the buyers grieving and out of pocket by upwards of £2000 in some cases.

I have blogged previously about our friends Bring Your Pet Home who work tirelessly to reunite pets and their people, but it is an incredibly difficult thing to do and especially so with such a dramatic increase in the number of cases. In the same blog we examined the legal classification of pets. Sadly, they are treated as personal property (chattel) so even if you are visibly distraught with worry when reporting to the police, this will not be treated with any more care or urgency that if someone had knicked your mobile phone. I strongly believe that the law needs to change on this. Police don’t make the law; they only enforce it. So, in the meantime, prevention seems the best way to combat this issue. My recommendations are as follows:

  • Adopt. Don’t shop. There are plenty of dogs looking for their forever homes in rescue centres and shelters. I rehomed Pixie privately and it was the best decision I ever made. She’s my best friend and I love her more than I can possibly put into words. Which is really saying something considering I’m a blogger and author! This also lessens demand for certain breeds of dogs and keeps ‘retail’ prices lower.
  • Never buy a dog from the internet. Websites such as Gumtree are frequently used by criminals to sell stolen and puppy farm dogs.
  • Make sure your dog’s microchip details are recorded accurately and are up to date. Recently there have been cases whereby details are recorded incorrectly which makes it incredibly difficult to find out where the dog belongs.
  • DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG TIED UP OUTSIDE A SHOP. This is in capitals because yes, I am shouting at you if you do this. I see it all the time when I’m driving around, and it makes me feel very anxious. This is an invitation to dog thieves. Don’t do it.
  • Make sure your garden is secure and don’t leave your dog unattended.
  • Avoid letting younger children walk your dog by themselves.

When walking your dog…

  • Make sure you have your mobile phone with you and that it is sufficiently charged. You may need to call for help or take a photograph of thieves and/or their vehicle.
  • Vary your route. Particularly if you have a breed which is in demand. You may have already been spotted and targeted.
  • Pay attention. You should be paying attention to your dog anyway but very often I see people chatting away on their phones completely oblivious to their dog’s whereabouts (and often the fact that they are pooping which gives us all a bad name).
  • Be aware of your surroundings and people around you. It’s O.K. to walk away from people who make you feel uncomfortable. Particularly if they want to photograph or pet your dog. If you’re not happy, don’t allow it. Never ignore your gut feeling.
  • If you feel vulnerable, arrange to walk with a friend or neighbour. You might also want to have a whistle or personal alarm. I have a personal alarm strapped to my arm when I’m out walking. No shame in it. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

My biggest tip of all is, do not let these evil people rob you of the joy of pet parenting. Chances are, you’ll be absolutely fine and statistically there are more of us than there are of them. Be alert, be smart but also be present and enjoy every moment with your beloved companion.