It’s commonly assumed that a guard dog can help secure your home against intruders, but it’s becoming more common for pets themselves to be the target for thieves making an attempt to enter your home.
Figures collected by Blue Cross from police forces across the UK show 40% more pets were reported stolen in 2014 compared to 2012. During 2016, the BBC reported a 22% rise in dog theft across England and Wales; that’s around 5000 dogs stolen in the past three years, making them the most commonly stolen pets. Half of those were never recovered.
Why is pet theft rising?
In the past, pets of all types were stolen for their abilities: livestock-herding border collies, fighting pitbull mixes. These days, ‘posher’ pooches like Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Labradors and other pedigrees are stolen for resale. The average return on a stolen dog has been estimated at £200, with some pets ‘stolen to order’ selling online for over £2000.
Pet theft occurs for many reasons but it usually takes both the thief’s determination and the pet owner’s imprudence to allow it to happen.
How to secure your property against prevent pet theft
- Over half of all pets are stolen from homes, so it’s important to keep your home and garden secure, particularly if your pet needs regular garden access. That means installing tall fences—some dogs can jump over 6 feet—locking gates, and installing security lights to illuminate any uninvited attempt to enter your perimeter.
- Don’t advertise the presence of pets in your home. Known animal breeders are a common target of pet theft for this reason. ‘Beware of the Dog’ posters once worked as a useful deterrent, but can now indicate to burglars that there’s something valuable inside. You wouldn’t leave your jewelry or computers on display—why do the same with your pet?
- If you need to arrange for someone to feed your pet or a dog walker to visit while you’re away, avoid giving access to your home to anyone you don’t fully trust. Ask a close friend or neighbour, or hire the services of professional keyholders to make pre-arranged routine visits to your property to ensure that your pets will be regularly fed while you’re away. Keep your home secure by using a service you can trust.
- If your pet is left home alone, invest in a pet-immune motion sensor for your burglar alarm. Pet-friendly sensors can be calibrated to ignore particular sizes and shapes of the pet responsible for the movement, or to work only above a certain height so that pets can pass underneath the motion sensors without triggering the alarm falsely.
- A considerable proportion of pets are stolen while lost or astray. Don’t leave doors and windows open when pets are home alone. Alternatively, consider investing in gates or grilles for your windows if you are prone to doing this.
In case of the event you do experience pet theft, don’t neglect having your pet microchipped, or ensuring they wear an ID tag or collar that bears your contact details. Having your dog microchipped is now compulsory by law, and this will be the case for other animals in the near future. If your pet goes missing then it will give you a better chance of being reunited quickly as authorities, vets and rescue centres will be able to trace any found animal back to you. Keep up to date photos of your pet too, including any distinctive marks that can be used to identify them later.
Often, incidences of pet theft go unrecorded because owners choose to believe their pets are simply missing. Consider your loss, and determine whether it might be better to record it as a theft. If you think your pet has been stolen, report it to the police as soon as possible and obtain a crime reference number. If you chose to install CCTV in your home, it may assist the authorities in bringing those responsible to justice. You can also post your dog’s details and photographs to local noticeboards or websites, like the Dog Lost website doglost.co.uk.