Since the pandemic began, around 3.2 million UK households have introduced a pet into their family, according to pet population figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) - however, this increase in pet ownership has resulted in an increase in pet theft.
This is what you need to know about keeping your dog safe - and which breeds are most at risk of being targeted by thieves.
‘Dog thefts rising by a large proportion’
Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance, said: “It’s incredibly sad to see the number of dog thefts rising by such a large proportion in 2020.
“Unfortunately, it seems the increase in dog ownership over lockdowns has also translated to a rise in dog thefts, as thieves know how valuable some of these breeds can be and see them as a commodity rather than a beloved member of the family.
“The worry is these numbers will increase even further this year once dogs are left alone more as restrictions ease and we return to a new ‘normal’.
“Taking simple precautions like not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted, while making sure microchipping contact details are up to date can help identify a dog if it is stolen and handed in.”
Which breeds are most at risk?
During lockdown, dog thefts have increased by almost a fifth, with up to seven pets being reported stolen each day in 2020.
The figures have revealed that an estimated 2,438 dogs were reported as stolen last year, which is a 19 per cent increase from 2019 - and unfortunately only 22 per cent of stolen dogs were reunited with their owners.
According to analysis by Direct Line Pet Insurance, Staffordshire Bull Terriers continue to top the list of most at risk of theft, with 97 dogs stolen in 2020. The second most targeted is crossbreeds, with 52 dogs stolen.
Rounding out the top three is Cocker Spaniels with 34 dogs taken in 2020.
The data suggests that the North West appears to be the UK’s dog theft hotspot, accounting for 15 per cent of all reported thefts in 2020, with London coming second with 13 per cent of all thefts.
Top 10 most at risk dog breeds
These are the top 10 dog breeds most at risk of theft according to Direct Line:
- Staffordshire bull terrier
- Cocker Spaniel
- Jack Russell
- Border Collie
- Springer Spaniel
- French Bulldog
How to prevent dog theft
As well as being aware of knowing how thieves operate, there are certain things you can do to make it harder for them to target your dog, according to Direct Line.
The insurance company says:
- Be wary of strangers asking too many questions - while it’s nice to receive compliments about your dog from strangers, you should be cautious if they start asking for personal information
- Switch up your walking patterns - walking your dog in the same place at the same time every day creates a pattern that thieves can follow and plan around, so variety is key here
- Microchip your dog - while this won’t prevent your dog from being stolen, it can help identify them if they are found
What to do if your dog is stolen
Pet specialists PawSquad suggests the following steps if your dog goes missing or is stolen:
- Immediately report the missing dog to the microchip databases Petlog, PETtrac and Indentibase - they will be able to notify you when your pet is found
- If you believe your dog has been stolen, you should report the crime to the police and ask for a reference number
- Put up posters in your local area - this will make it more likely that a stranger could find your dog
- Register your dog on a dedicated website, such as Animal Search UK, which, again, will make it easier for members of the public to help find and return your dog
- Post on social media to spread awareness
- Retrace your steps if your dog went missing during a walk as you may find clues as to where they might have headed
- Check common hiding places, such as surrounding gardens and the local neighbourhood, being sure to ask anyone you see if they’ve seen your dog