With an increase in people taking on a pet during lockdown, the prices of puppies and dogs shot up, with the Guardian reporting that the cost of some breeds has quadrupled from £2,000 to £8,000. Sadly, this has also led to a rise in the theft of dogs across the UK.
According to research seen by the charity Blue Cross, which has an animal hospital on Merton High Street to treat pets of owners on a low income, there had already been a 170% increase in reported pet thefts between 2019 and 2020, before the pandemic even struck. Last year 2,355 dogs were reported stolen, according to police data obtained by the Kennel Club.
Blue Cross is campaigning for pet theft to be a crime in its own right with increased sentencing as a deterrent to thieves, but in the meantime the charity kindly shared with us advice for dog owners to protect their pets from thieves.
· All dogs must be fitted with a microchip by law. Puppies should have been chipped by the breeder at eight weeks old. It is essential to keep your contact details up to date with the microchip company if you move home or change your telephone number. The microchip is the best way to reunite you with your pet if they go missing.
· Your dog should always wear a collar and ID tag with your name and address on it. A mobile number is also a good idea, as well as confirmation they are microchipped. If your dog is neutered, having this on their ID tag may also deter thieves looking to steal dogs to breed from. Don’t put their name on the tag as it may help thieves lure them away.
· Have lots of pictures of you with your dog if subsequently needed for ID purposes.
· While on walks beware of strangers asking questions about your dog, if they are neutered and asking other questions. Also look out for vehicles slowing down around you.
· Meet up with other dog walkers or take a friend or family member with you.
· Vary your dog walk times and routes and do not post pictures of your dog and tag your location when out and about.
· Don’t leave them tied up outside a shop or left alone in the car. Opportunist thieves can easily snatch them if they are left alone. Dogs can overheat very quickly in cars, even on mild days, so it’s best to make sure you have someone with you to look after them if needed – or leave them at home.
· If you can’t guarantee they will return to you when called and off the lead keep them on a long lead, especially in unfamiliar areas.
· When at home prevent your pets from sitting by a glass door or in the window where they can be visible to passers-by.
· Make sure garden is secure and keep an eye on your dog when they are outside. It is a good idea to fit a bell to any back garden gates so you can hear if someone is getting in.
· CCTV cameras may help to deter thieves.
· Take care when choosing someone to care for your dog if you are going away from home or need a dog walker while you go to work. Use a reputable company or boarding kennels and check references for people who provide dog or house-sitting services.
· If the worst happens and your dog is stolen, act quickly and call 999 to report the theft. Insist that police record it as a theft rather than a lost animal and get a crime reference number.
· Report the loss/theft to the microchip database, this will be flagged if your dog is scanned or if someone tries to re-register your dog. ensure that if anyone tries to re-register the chip number, you will be informed.
· Report the loss to your local council’s dog warden and those in all other neighbouring local authorities.
· Visit places where dog walkers go such as local parks and public places and talk to people, asking them to keep an eye open for your dog
· Make posters and display them in areas local to your home and in relevant places such as vets, local parks etc. The poster should include a clear photograph and details of the circumstances.
· Put out appeals on social media as soon as possible and encourage friends and family to share them far and wide.
· Consider calling your local newspaper and media outlets to bring attention to the theft and warn others to be on the lookout for your dog and similar cases.
· Make sure local vets are aware in case someone takes your dog in for treatment.
· Report the loss on missing animal websites – there is no single national database, so you will have to place the same information on all of them to ensure a widespread appeal.
· Contact local animal shelters and rescue charities and send them posters to display.
· Losing a pet due to theft or other reasons is a traumatic event. Blue Cross is here to provide support with our Pet Bereavement Support Service which can be contacted on 0800 096 6606 (8.30am – 8.30pm) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by live webchat via the Blue Cross website.
Keep it clean
We live in one of London’s greenest boroughs, with more than 100 parks and gardens to exercise your four-legged friends in.
As part of our ‘Love Merton’ campaign, we are asking residents and visitors to be aware of the impact littering and fly tipping has, especially for pets and other animals. So please, ‘Keep it Clean’!