Tips On Preventing Dog Theft


The number of stolen dogs in the UK is still unfortunately a significant problem. In 2021, over 2,000 dogs were stolen. This equates to a rate of five dogs per day being taken away from heartbroken owners. Holidays4Dogs provides advice on preventing dog theft and keeping your pet dog safe.

It would seem there is a correlation between the rise in the cost of pedigree dogs – some fetching 1,000 pounds upwards – and the problem of dog theft. The impact of lockdown and increased demand for puppies, also has a bearing on rising cases of dog theft.

Pet theft was the subject of parliamentary debate on March 16th 2021. Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd : Labour) began the debate by raising concerns about the rise in opportunistic pet theft.

Because the demand for dogs increased tremendously during the periods of covid-19 lockdown, Alex Davies-Jones pointed out, there had been an increase in the number of dogs entering the country for commercial reasons. Alex cited that, intra-trade health certificates issued for dogs from May to August 2020, were 16,000, – which is double than those issued for the previous year.

Animal welfare societies have an equally big concern about puppy smuggling and illegal transportation into the UK, often in terrible conditions. On top of this, the Dogs Trust have found that many of these imported dogs are heavily pregnant when they arrive. This is how puppy dealers, avoid the ban on commercial third-party puppy sales. A ban which came into force in April 2020.

‘Pet Theft Taskforce’

Following a parliamentary debate in March, Priti Patel announced the launch of a ‘pet theft taskforce’; set up to tackle the dreadful rise in pet theft. However, this initiative was only an information-gathering exercise, intended to establish what factors contribute to the rise in dog thefts. You can read the resulting report here.

Tougher legislation

Stealing a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968. Potential offenders face a maximum seven-year sentence, buttrigger stacking convictions nowhere near match the rate at which pets are stolen.

According to the Pet Theft Reform campaigners, those caught stealing dogs very often only receive a fine. Just 1% of pet theft crimes ever lead to an actual prosecution.

Because a dog is regarded as ‘property’, sentencing guidelines classify offences based only on the value of ‘goods’ stolen.  Magistrates can increase fines for items of sentimental value.

However, this does not account for the fact that people regard their pet dogs as priceless members of the family. Many families go through terrible periods of grief, such is the impact of having a beloved pet stolen.  As a result of this situation, the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance have called for pet theft to be specifically made a criminal offence. This would result in certain imprisonment.

Which breeds of dog are commonly stolen?

Staffordshire bull terriers are the most commonly stolen breed. Unfortunately, experts believe they are being stolen for illegal dog fighting. Chihuahuas, pugs and French bulldogs are also frequently targeted by thieves. Their small size, perhaps, makes them easier for criminals to sitting, pet sitting

Another factor that motivates dog thefts is the re-sale value of expensive breeds. These include ‘designer’ dogs such as cockapoos; the second most popular breed targeted by dog rustlers. Owners of pedigree dogs need to be particularly vigilant for potential dog thieves.

Having a pet dog stolen is very distressing and leaves many owners heartbroken.  While many dogs are returned home safely, many others are never recovered.

Preventing dog theft and keeping your pet safe

At Holidays4Dogs we welcome the implementation of much firmer legislation and harsher sentences for dog theft in the future. In addition, we have taken further measures to protect your dog while in our care.

View Holidays4Dogs safeguarding dogs out walking & theft & Risk assessment Click here

To avoid your dog being a target for thieves and preventing dog theft, always make sure your garden and home are secure. Avoid leaving your dog alone in the garden. Our Holidays4Dogs carers will never leave guest dogs unattended in the garden.

  • Make sure boundary gates have locks fitted. You can also attach bells to gates, which will alert you to anyone entering your property.

  • Never leave your dog tied up outside a shop and always ensure he is within your sights when walking him off-lead. Dogs Trust recommends varying your routes. Many dogs are targeted and snatched from owners while out walking.

  • It is also unsafe to leave your dog unattended in the car. Not only are there health implications, but thieves have been known to steal dogs from vehicles too.

  • Be wary of strangers who pay too much attention to your dog. Many dog thefts occur in this way; being literally snatched from the owner’s hands.

  • If your dog doesn’t have a very good recall, keep him on a lead. It is important not to let your dog run ahead of you, or out of sigh. This is especially the case in unfamiliar areas.

What to do if your dog is missing, or stolen.

Keep your dog safe by following our tips above for preventing dog theft. If you suspect your dog has been stolen, report to the police immediately. Use social media to advertise any particular characteristics and distinguishing features.

Also report your missing dog to all the local rescue kennels, dog wardens, veterinary surgeries, grooming parlours and pet shops. In addition, notify your dog’s microchip database.

Having a precious family dog stolen is a highly disturbing event. The Blue Cross offers support with this via their Pet Bereavement Service; 0800 096 6606 (8.30am-8.30pm).