Dog theft on the rise in the UK, according to recently released statistics

Dog theft on the rise in the UK, according to recently released statistics

Every dog owner’s worst nightmare is having something happen to their pet – such as them getting injured, going missing, or being stolen. Whilst dog theft isn’t hugely common within the UK, dog-nappers operate across the country and are often very efficient at targeting specific dogs and ensuring that they disappear without a trace.

According to data recently released by police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to pet insurance companies including Direct Line and The Insurance Emporium, dog theft in the UK is on the rise – and not all of the most commonly stolen dog types are pedigrees.

In this article, we’ll look at the facts and figures for dog theft in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, examine the most commonly stolen dog breeds, and explore why dog theft is on the rise across the UK. Read on to learn more.

How common is dog theft in the UK?

The current statistics on dog theft in the UK were collated from police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Data for Scotland is not currently available.

The figures indicate that dog theft has been rising year-on-year since 2012 – beginning with just over 1,500 dogs stolen in 2012 and ending with a total figure of almost 2,000 in 2017.

It is important to note that these figures only reflect thefts that were reported to and recorded by the police – and don’t take into account unreported thefts.

Why is dog theft on the rise?

The facts and figures indicate that dog theft has been growing over the course of the last few years, but it is important to view the data objectively in order to develop a big-picture perspective. The apparent increase in dog thefts may relate more to better recording protocols and an increase in communication between police forces and dog owners over previous years, rather than a true increase in the level of theft itself.

As large pet insurance companies like Direct Line now regularly request data statistics from police forces about dog theft in the areas that they cover, reporting and recording protocols are likely to be more comprehensive and accurate, which is in itself a good thing.

A better awareness on the part of police forces about the level of dog theft and the appropriate response to it under the law means that dog theft is more likely to be treated with the appropriate gravitas by police forces, enabling police forces to dedicate more resources to investigating dog thefts and bringing about successful prosecutions when stolen dogs are found.

What are the most commonly stolen dog breeds and types?

The data collated by police and insurance companies on the level of dog theft in the UK has also produced a clear pattern about the dog breeds and types that are most commonly targeted for theft, and ultimately, successfully stolen – and the results are somewhat surprising.

In 2017, the five most commonly stolen dog breeds in descending order were:

1. The Staffordshire bull terrier.

2. Cross-breed dogs.

3. The French bulldog.

4. The Chihuahua.

5. The Jack Russell.

Why are the most commonly stolen dog breeds particularly targeted?

Going down the five most commonly stolen dog types list one by one, here are some of the potential reasons why they make such appealing targets for thieves.

The Staffordshire bull terrier

  • A very common and popular dog breed in the UK – lots of dogs of this type around.
  • A breed that is much in demand among dog owners, and so, easy to sell on, or appealing to breed from to sell puppies.
  • Despite the business-like, no-nonsense appearance of the Staffordshire bull terrier, the breed is highly personable and usually very friendly, meaning that many dogs of this type won’t be suspicious of strangers and may be willing to go with someone they don’t know.

Cross-breed dogs

Why cross breed dogs are the second most stolen dog type in the UK might seem at first glance to be far from obvious, until you take into account the fact that hybrid dog types are cross breeds – and these are some of the most popular dog types in the UK.

The Cockapoo, Cavapoo and Labradoodle are all classed as cross breeds for recording purposes, and dogs of this type are much more popular than many pedigree dog breeds, making them much in demand and often, very expensive to buy – and so, lucrative and easy to resell.

The French bulldog

  • The French bulldog is the UK’s most popular dog breed overall, and is in great demand.
  • French bulldogs are also one of the most expensive breeds to buy, with dogs often changing hands for £2,000-3,000 when bought and sold legally. This makes them profitable to sell on or use for breeding to sell on the subsequent litters if stolen.
  • French bulldogs are small enough to be relatively easy to steal.

The Chihuahua

  • The Chihuahua is the UK’s second most popular dog breed, again, making them much in demand and so easy to find a buyer for, or likely to produce a profitable litter if used for breeding.
  • They can also be costly to buy.
  • They are the smallest dog breed, making them very portable and easy to spirit away.

The Jack Russell

The Jack Russell is the UK’s 11th most popular dog breed, and their appeal and large numbers can make them a viable target for theft.

However, explaining why this breed is the fifth most commonly stolen is not as easy as it is for the other four, as Jack Russells don’t tend to be hugely costly to buy, nor difficult to find offered for sale. Jack Russells can also be something of a handful, and are not always easy to steal or likely to go with a stranger without making a fuss.

Exactly why any dog thief chooses to steal a specific dog – or specific breed of dog – is something best known to the unscrupulous persons that commit such thefts, and the reasons behind any theft can be very variable.

Some dog thieves will steal a dog they particularly like the look of to keep for themselves, while others – particularly those working as part of gangs and criminal organisations – may steal to order for prospective buyers, or steal costly and in-demand dog breeds that they can resell for a profit.

Stealing dogs for breeding or stud purposes is another reason, and of course, one of the biggest fears for dog owners is that their dogs might be taken for illegal dog fighting rings too. However, whilst the latter is probably the most frightening potential reason for theft that any dog owner could imagine, it is also one of the least common – going to the risk and trouble of stealing a dog is generally undertaken for financial gain, or out of a desire to own the specific dog in question.

However, this is cold comfort to dog owners who may never find out for sure what became of their dog, and if they are being loved and cared for by someone else, or if a worse fate has befallen them.

Even given the almost limitless range of different reasons for why any given thief steals any given dog, some conclusions can be drawn about some of the most common reasons for dog theft based on the breeds and types of dogs that are most in demand among thieves.



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