Dog theft is not as common as many dog owners fear it is; but if you’re a member of any local pets lost and stolen groups, breed-specific forums or other sites online where dog owners meet and chat, you probably feel as if you see a constant stream of appeals for help and to spread the word when a dog has been stolen or is suspected to have been taken.
Across England and Wales, around six dogs a day get stolen; and in many cases, when a dog goes missing, its owner immediately assumes it has been stolen when it has in fact just wandered off and usually makes it home in short order.
Even when it comes to genuine dog thefts, around 20% of those that really are stolen are reunited with their owners, which means that each year, only around 1,600 or so dogs out of a canine population of almost ten million are actually taken for good, so the odds of that happening to you are very low.
However, it definitely pays to be vigilant and ensure that you don’t make life easy for would-be dog thieves, to reduce the very low risk of your own dog becoming a target. One element of this is learning to recognise the types of places and scenarios in which dog thieves might target or have an opportunity to target dogs for theft.
Based on information collated by UK police forces and insurance companies on reports of dog theft in the UK, this article will tell you the five most common types of places and scenarios where dog thieves strike. Read on to learn more.
Letting your dog out into the garden to do their business, let off steam, or so that you can vacuum the living room without it turning into a battle to rival Game of Thrones is something most of us take for granted.
However, 52% of all dog thefts in England and Wales, or over half of them, are from gardens. Leaving your dog unsupervised in the garden can result in them being an easy target for both planned and opportunistic theft.
Reduce the risks of your dog being stolen from your garden by always keeping them in sight if your garden borders a public road or pavement; building a wall or fence high enough to keep your dog in and others out and ideally, your dog out of sight; and if possible, installing security cameras as both a deterrent and to serve as evidence if the worst happened.
Dogs should never be left alone in cars full stop, due to the risk of heatstroke. Heatstroke can develop in just a few minutes in summer, and can be fatal. However, many dog owners still leave their dog on their own in the car for a while, particularly when the weather is cooler; often with the air conditioning on (and so, power to the doors) or a window open to an extent.
Dogs unattended in cars are a potential target for thieves; who may be able to access the car with ease due to an open window or powered doors.
If you assume your dog would act as their own security system, think again! Even those that bark at people walking past might not put up a fuss if someone actually tried to take them or gave them a treat.
Thieves may also break into a locked car to steal a dog, which can happen very quickly, and other people tend to pay very little mind to the sound of a car alarm going off these days, as this is so common.
You should never leave your dog tied up outside of a shop, as they may be a target for thieves; and this is a bit of a catch 22 as well. If your dog is wary enough of strangers to be defensive or see one off, they’re not safe to leave outside of a shop as they may snap at someone who just wanted to say hello.
If your dog is personable enough to be trusted in a situation like this, they’d probably be quite happy to wander off with someone who took them, and passers by would have no way of knowing that the person who took the dog was not their actual owner.
Most of us use public parks and open spaces to let our dogs run freely, and when we get to know the area and particularly, other regular dogs and owners, and that our dogs are contained within boundaries and familiar with the place, we often don’t watch them as closely as we should.
Most dog owners have experienced the fear on at least one occasion when our dog, which was seemingly there a minute or two ago while we sent a text or looked away, seems to be nowhere in sight; have they run into the road, has someone taken them? Before the dog reappears again soon after.
However, dogs are sometimes stolen from parks and similar spaces when their owners are not that far away, but distracted, so always pay attention and keep your dog in sight to keep this from happening to you.
Many people take their dogs to cafes and outdoor dining spaces these days, and this is particularly common for small, toy dogs in carriers.
It is actually not that hard to forget that your dog is with you if the carrier is under the table and your dog is quiet, which more toy dog owners have done at least once than would generally admit to it; and if you’re not paying attention to your dog or even forget they’re with you, thieves could make off with your dog conveniently enclosed in the carrier before you know it.
This is less common than the other methods mentioned above, but still important to bear in mind.