Dog thefts up 250% during the pandemic: Here's how to keep your pooch safe 

Written by
Faith Archer
Insurance expert
1 December 2021
4 min read
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If you thought that the job market was competitive, wait until you try to buy a puppy. 

Demand for puppies surged during the pandemic - for every available pup offered for sale in May 2020, there were 420 prospective buyers competing to take them home. 

As a result, prices soared – and sadly so did a rise in dog theft - with DogLost, a charity, saying that 465 thefts were reported to them in 2020, versus a total of 172 in 2019. 

Many people who dreamed of having a dog finally seized the chance when at home during lockdown. 

This sent the average price of puppies for sale shooting up from £817 in September 2019 to £1,912 in September 2020, according to research by Pets4Homes. 

Average prices for top breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, Cockapoos and Labrador Retrievers doubled or even tripled, leaping into four figures. 

The most expensive breed was the English bulldog, at £2,994 on average. 

Where puppy prices led, thieves followed, seeing valuable dogs as a way to make easy money. 

Criminals may steal beloved family pets to resell or breed, or to claim ransoms or rewards. These thefts can be heart breaking for bereft owners. 

Average prices for top breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, Cockapoos and Labrador Retrievers doubled or even tripled during lockdown 

How to keep your pooch safe 

Whenever it was that you welcomed your four-legged friend to your family, you can still take simple steps to protect your pooch. 

Update contact details on the microchip 

It’s a legal requirement in England and Wales that pet dogs over the age of eight weeks should be microchipped. If you've recently got a puppy, moved house or changed mobile number, make sure you update your details on the relevant microchipping database. That way there’s more chance you can be reunited with your pet if it's ever lost or stolen. 

Don’t put the dog’s name on its tag 

By law, your dog must also wear a collar and ID tag when out in public. However, you might want to get your own name engraved on the tag rather than your dog’s, so thieves can’t trap your pet by calling its name. You can also get GPS trackers to fit on your pet’s collar or harness. 

Keep your garden secure 

Fit locks on any garden gates and avoid letting your dog play unsupervised in your front garden, if it can be seen from the street. 

Don’t leave your dog unaccompanied 

Don’t leave your dog tied up outside shops or alone in your car. Both provide opportunities for thieves, quite apart from the potentially dreadful consequences of leaving a dog locked in a hot car. 

Train your dog to come when called 

Keep an eye on your dog when it's roaming off the lead or playing further away. Teach it to come back to you on command if you think it might be in danger. 

If your dog does get stolen, act quickly and call the police. Register it as a theft, rather than a lost animal, and ask for a crime reference number. 

Get snap happy 

This one shouldn’t be a hardship. Take cute photos of you with your pet, showing any distinguishing features. These can be useful to help prove your ownership and for publicity materials if your pet is stolen. Make sure you snap pics as your dog grows and after trips to the groomer. 

Watch out on social media 

It’s tempting to plaster your social media feeds with photos of your ‘fur baby’ but beware of adding location tags that direct criminals to your door. If in doubt, restrict your privacy settings to friends only. 

Take a different route 

We all have favourite dog walks. However, it’s worth varying the timing and route, so thieves can’t predict exactly where your dog will be each day. 

Check references 

If you’re going to trust your dog with other people, such as dog walkers, pet sitters or kennels, ask for references to make sure they are genuine. 

Dog walkers for example don’t have to be registered, although ideally, they should have adequate third-party insurance

Consider getting your dog neutered 

Many dogs are stolen by people hoping to breed them and sell the puppies. Getting your pet neutered may not only make your pet less likely to roam but may also deter these thieves. 

If the worst happens 

If your dog does get stolen, act quickly and call the police. Register it as a theft, rather than a lost animal, and ask for a crime reference number. 

Report the theft to the microchip database too so you’ll be notified if someone tries to re-register the microchip number. 

Then it’s a matter of getting the word out: to local vets, dog wardens, animal shelters and rescue charities. Spread the word and share photos on social media, in local newspapers and via missing animal websites. 

3 things to do right now...

Check the details on your dog’s microchip are up to date. It should only take a few minutes but could make all the difference in reuniting you with your pet. 

Don’t leave your dog alone outside shops, in cars, or in your front garden. 

Avoid posting photos of your furry companion on social media with the locations tagged. 

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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.