Are dog thefts increasing in the UK due to Covid-19?
The Covid-19 pandemic and more specifically, the stay-at-home guidance and lockdown restrictions that came with it had all sorts of knock-on effects on us, some of which were far harder to predict than others. One of these was a huge spike in demand for puppies for sale, with breeders unable to meet the sudden level of demand for litters of all types.
A huge part of this increase in demand was due to so many people being stuck at home for weeks on end, a situation which meant that many people saw as the ideal opportunity to get a new puppy as they could spend so much time with them, and that for some, represented a lifeline of companionship and support.
However, just as puppy sales increased hugely in 2020 and demand for pups far outstripped supply, so too did dog theft; and there would seem to be a direct correlation between Covid-19, demand for puppies, and dog thefts to cash in on this demand.
This article will examine whether dog theft in the UK is increasing as a result of Covid-19. Read on to learn more.
At the time of writing (March 2021) statistics for the last year indicate that dog thefts in the UK have increased dramatically, in line with the Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns we’ve undergone during this time.
The Kennel Club assigns this to thieves cashing in on both the greatly inflated prices puppies have changed hands for in the last year and the huge waiting audience of prospective buyers for them.
Scams to defraud would-be puppy buyers of their funds with no puppies forthcoming a the end of it increased hugely in 2020 too, as the social distancing rules meant that being unable to show a litter and requiring a deposit for a puppy unseen suddenly became plausible for the first time.
While this is naturally illegal, unscrupulous, and highly immoral, it is at least arguably better than puppy theft and resale; but sadly, this rose sharply in 2020 too.
How much did dog theft increase in 2020? By 250%, an absolutely unprecedented figure and one that is hugely concerning.
In the Midlands area alone, dog thefts increased by 65% during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown; and 78% or over three out of four of stolen dogs are never reunited with their owners. Fewer than 5% of cases of dog theft result in successful conviction either, making the penalties for being caught and low enough to be well worth the risk to many criminals.
Put simply, the huge level of demand for puppies during 2020, with tens or even hundreds of prospective buyers going after every single puppy offered for some breeds. Where there is such a high level of demand compared to supply, two things will happen; sale prices tend to increase as would-be buyers are forced to pay more if they want to get a pup, and of course, criminals will seek to cash in on this.
When demand for puppies is so high and there’s so much competition too, people seeking to buy a pup soon realise that when a litter becomes available, they need to move quickly to buy or reserve one; and litters are currently frequently totally reserved even prior to the dam’s delivery.
This means some buyers are less speculative and pay less mind to doing their due diligence than they might usually be, and also that for people whose dogs have been stolen, the time for which they are advertised and so likely to be recognised by those looking for them is much shorter.
Generally this is puppies, particularly those under 12 weeks of age and still with their dam. Even more specifically, pedigree puppies and so-called hybrid crossings like the Cockapoo, all of which have huge demand from waiting buyers. This means that puppies still with their dam are the most likely targets for thieves, which is even more horrendous than theft of adult dogs as such puppies are far too young to be leaving their dam at the age that most are stolen.
Pedigree and popular hybrid litters under 12 weeks of age – when thieves can pick off a whole litter and the pups are young enough to attract the highest prices, and also are unlikely to have been microchipped by that point – are most in demand with dog thieves.
Also, pedigree or popular hybrid dog types that are unneutered are perhaps the next most appealing targets for thieves, as these can themselves be bred from. Pregnant dams too are a popular target for dog thieves that can identify them; and they’re lower risk when it comes to getting away with selling the subsequent pups than stealing a litter, because the pups will be wholly undocumented, not microchipped, and the dam’s owner won’t even know what they look like to try to find them.