Among the many lockdown updates, it was devastating to hear Lady Gaga recently suffered from an incident of dog theft, with her two dogs, Koji and Gustav, pinched from her dog walker in Hollywood. And by pinched we mean he was shot by the dognappers! Luckily her dogs have now been returned after a $500,000 reward was made available and Ryan, the dog-walker is recovering in hospital. With the many new pooches hitting the streets, this weeks blog is dedicated to wising up on dog theft and how to keep our furry ones safe.
During the pandemic, many of us have introduced a new dog to our homes. We’ve seen a huge rise in pet ownership, with more than 5.7 million new pets, as people seek companionship and take advantage of the extra time at home to share with a cat or dog. Sadly the rise in pets has seen a large rise in dog theft and irresponsible pet breeding like puppy farming. Estimations by Dog Lost suggest that dog theft has increased by a staggering 250% since March 2020, with networks of organised gangs now reportedly involved too.
Why is dog theft on the rise?
Traditionally puppies and dogs are adopted from reputable rescue centres or purchased from certified breeders. However with the increased demand, the supply simply hasn't been able to catch up. The internet has resulted in a huge number of ‘other options’ with pre-emptive pet parents sadly now able to buy a puppy off anything from Gumtree to Facebook Groups. Puppy dealers are able to infiltrate these channels much easier and lie about the true origins of the puppies or dogs for sale. Don't get caught out! If you’re looking to introduce a new dog to your follow these tips so you know how to watch out for a puppy dealer.
The increased demand for dogs, has also meant that the cost of certain breeds has more than doubled. Popular breeds like cocker spaniels are being advertised for £3000 plus! Thieves are well aware that puppies and dogs can fetch a high price and subsequently this is fuelling the rise in dog theft.
What tactics are thieves using to steal dogs?
Lady Gaga's case is obviously highly extreme and we haven’t seen anyone shot for their dog in the UK. However increasingly more violent and horrific dognapping attempts are being reported. Some thieves are more sophisticated than others and plan dog theft weeks in advance. Common tactics used for dog theft includes:
- Pretending to dress up as fake RSPCA inspectors with white vans to grab pets.
- Pretending to be pet parents themselves, just looking for a chat in the park.
- Stealing whole dog walker’s vans.
- Dog napping directly from back gardens – up to 52% of dogs are taken this way.
- Breaking into cars – parked or even on some occasions with the owners inside the vehicle (keep your doors locked)
- Grabbing a dog that’s tied outside businesses or shops in public places with the unknowing dog owner unaware inside.
10 Tips to prevent dog theft?
1. Don’t let your dog out of your sight
You might not have planned on being an over-bearing pet parent that never lets their baby out of sight, however with the current rise in dog theft, it’s well-recommended to always have them within eye-shot. This includes not leaving your pooch tied outside any businesses or shops, even if you’re only ‘popping in for a mo’.
2. Secure your garden
If you have any gaps in your fencing, now’s the time to board them up. Make sure gates are shut and padlocked and avoid any half-gates that thieves can easily lean over. We have first hand experience with foxes digging under ours and creating a small hole which Smudge escaped through during fireworks season. Thankfully someone found her albeit they did say that they were hoping to keep her and we found out if missing dogs aren’t claimed within 7 days, anyone can then keep them. We’ve since installed concrete blocks several inches deep below our fencing to prevent this happening again.
3. Microchipping, collars and tags
Legally, dogs must be microchipped. This can be done from any age above eight weeks. It's safe, effective and helps reunite dogs if they go missing or are stolen. Equally, it's important your dog sports a collar and tag when out and about. The tag should have your name and a contact number. Avoid having your pet's name on the tag. If your dog is particularly friendly, a stranger can use their name and appear to others as their dogs owner.
4. Stranger danger
If anyone does try to engage you in a socially distanced conversation in the park make sure your dog is on their lead and you have a secure grip of them. Be wary of any slightly off behaviour or being fooled by any cunning lines that might result in you being caught off guard.
5. Report any incidents
See it, Say it, Sorted as the British Transport Police would say. If you see anything remotely dodge, call your local police and ask for a Crime Reference Number. By catching other people’s thieves you’ll be benefiting your future self too.
6. Only use vetted dog walkers/sitters
If you don’t have a trusted family friend, neighbour or family member you'll likely need to use a dog walking or sitting service. Don't let just anyone take care of your precious angel. Reputable dog walkers and sitters are registered and insured. Check their details and if you're currently looking for a dog care service, use an official channel like a Tailster. LINK
7. Recall training to prevent dog theft
If your pooch is let off the lead, ensure they have their PHD in recall. Check out our new dog training treats for a tasty and beneficial training treat, which will surely have them recalling like a pro.
8. Pet gadgets and Home Security
There are a number of anti-theft technologies you can implement like GPS pet trackers, HS outdoor cameras and home security systems. We use a Furbo at home if we have to pop out to keep an eye on Smudge and Boo. A few basic security measures will dramatically reduce the chances that your dog will be kidnapped.
9. Mix up your walks
We might be creatures of habit, but mixing up your daily walks will prevent anyone from being able work out your routine and target you. More importantly, your dog will enjoy the different scents and terrain.
10. Avoid extremely busy parks
We’ve noticed some London parks have been absolutely heaving during the pandemic. With the warm weather just around the corner, it's likely to get worse. Try to find a less crowded spot to walk around or switch up the time so that you're out and about when others aren't.
What you should do if your dog is stolen?
If the unthinkable does happen and you don't have $500,000 to spare, here's what to do:
- Take to social media. This is our first port of call as it's what's helped us before. Every local area has a dog community facebook group or neighbourhood watch. Post to let others know your dog is missing or has been taken, with all the vital information. Most people will then share this with their circles.
- Report the dog theft to your local police and ask for a crime reference number. This will help you keep a track of the case as it progresses.
- Speak to your pups microchip database along with the corresponding crime reference number
- Retrace all your dog's steps. If there was anyone around speak to them or if it was from your home check in with your neighbours to see if they saw anything suspicious.
- Poster your local area to the max. Make sure to have all the relevant info on there, such as last seen location, reward info, a large photo, description of pet and your contact info / what to do if found.
- Contact dedicated lost pet websites, such as Lost Dog or Battersea's dedicated lost pet line.
- Contact your local news services.
- Check with your local council.
Don't forget to update everyone once your dog is safely back with you.
Finally let’s make dog theft a specific criminal offence
The current laws simply do not reflect the status of dogs in many families and there is no specific offence relating to dog theft. Currently dog theft is considered under the Theft Act 1968 with the maximum penalty being seven years’ imprisonment or if someone causes an animal to suffer the max penalty is only 6 months. Help us change this by signing the petition.