In Depth

Why dog thefts are still on the rise and how to protect your pet

The Staffordshire bull terrier remains the most stolen breed

Dog thefts have risen for the fourth year in a row, with around five pets reported stolen every day.

The latest figures from police forces in England and Wales, collated through Freedom of Information requests by the insurance firm Direct Line, show that 1,959 dogs were stolen in 2018, 80 more than the previous year.

“Not all forces replied to the request, suggesting the true figure is likely to be far higher,” says The Times.

The newspaper notes that “the UK’s favourite ‘status dog’ - the Staffordshire bull terrier - remained the most stolen breed last year with 88 reported thefts”. Chihuahuas and French bulldogs were also high on the list.

So why is dog theft increasing?

For a number of reasons, not least the lack of deterrents. While dog theft can be punished with up to seven years in prison, such penalties are rarely enforced, says Daniel Allen, an animal geographer at Keele University. Under UK law, pet theft is seen as no different to the theft of an inanimate object such as a laptop.

“With minimal deterrents, there are various dog theft networks working at local and national levels, specifically stealing pets for profit,” Allen writes on The Conversation. “Dogs are stolen to order, to sell, to breed, for ransom, and even for use as bait in illegal dog fighting.”

Pedigree dog owners have been warned to be especially vigilant. Eva Sandstra-Bennett, head of pet insurance at Direct Line, said: “Unfortunately, the popularity of designer dog breeds and flat faced dogs means they are highly desirable for thieves, as they are easily identifiable and can be sold on for thousands of pounds.”

What can dog owners do about it?

The animal charity Blue Cross says dog owners should avoid leaving their pets tied up outside shops or alone in the car or garden. Owners should ensure their dogs are microchipped and their details are up to date. The charity says people should also take lots of clear photographs of their pets from different angles, make a note of any distinguishing features and vary the route and time of their dog walks.

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