For many of us, our pets are much-loved members of the family, and we’d be devastated if anything ever happened to them. Sadly, though, theft of domestic pets is becoming increasingly common, and a survey has recently shown that roughly 3% of dog-owners in the UK have been the victim of dog theft, with just a fraction of dogs stolen ever being recovered.
Criminals steal pets for all sorts of reasons. Some top pedigree pets are kidnapped and ransoms demanded for their safe return, whilst others are simply sold to unscrupulous pet stores and breeders. Tragically, illegal dog fighting is a reality in the UK, and some pets are even stolen to be used as bait in these fights.
If you’re worried about your pet being stolen, check out these simple tips to keep them safe from thieves.
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do to safeguard your pet from theft, microchipping is now a legal requirement for dogs in the UK, and is recommended for cats too. All dogs must, by law, be microchipped before they reach 8 weeks old, with fines of up to £5,000 for owning a dog that isn’t chipped. Microchipping can only be done by a vet or a trained professional, and some animal welfare organisations will even microchip your dog for free. If your pet ever goes missing or is stolen, it should be possible to trace its ownership through the details stored on the microchip.
If you are thinking of buying a dog, whether a pup or an older dog, make sure you confirm that it has been microchipped already. The seller should supply the microchip certificate, as well as a pet passport if one exists, and any veterinary records that are available. A vet will be happy to scan the chip of any animal, to confirm that he or she belongs to the person selling it.
Of course, microchipping can only be effective if you actually keep your contact details up-to-date, and this is your sole responsibility. If your contact details change, for example if you move house, then you must notify the pet registration company as soon as possible.
It’s important to note that microchipping does not remove the requirement for all dogs to wear a collar and name tag in public places.
It’s understandable that most people want to share the news on social media when they get a new kitten or a puppy, but doing so could put your pet at risk. Revealing details online about your expensive pedigree pooch or kitty, along with information about when you are away from home, could be a gift to thieves, who can use the information to break into your home when you’re not there and steal your pet. Be careful too, if anyone shows too much interest in you and your dog, whilst you’re out walking it. Stealing dogs to order is a lucrative business, so when you are out walking, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and your dog’s whereabouts at all times.
Nowadays, people use dog walkers and pet sitting services routinely. It can be hard to find time to walk your dog regularly if you work full-time, so dog-walkers can be indispensible. More and more people are choosing to use pet-sitters rather than putting their pets in kennels or a cattery when they go on holiday. Whilst the vast majority of people working in these professions are honest and reliable, it does pay to check their credentials carefully. Look for professional accreditation and ask for references that you can follow up.
Unless you are sure that you want your pet to have a litter of puppies or kittens, it make sense to spay or neuter it. Spayed and neutered cats tend to stay closer to home, as their territorial drives are curbed. The further a cat wanders, the more at risk it is of being injured or even killed, or of being stolen, so anything you can do to reduce the tendency to stray is worthwhile.
A high number of pet thefts involve the animal being stolen whilst at home. Thieves breaking into your property are just as interested in your expensive pet as they are in other high-value items that can easily be resold, such as jewellery or consumer electronics. Good security lighting and CCTV can prove to be a real deterrent for thieves, who will simply look for an easier property to target. If you are unfortunate enough to be burgled, whether your pet is stolen or not, CCTV may prove useful in helping police track down the burglars. Of course, it’s impossible to guarantee that your property will never be targeted by thieves, but it is fair to say that visible security equipment goes a long way towards discouraging thieves from seeing your home as their next target.
No-one likes to think about the likelihood of having their beloved pet stolen, and many of us simply hope for the best, praying that such an awful thing never happens to us. Yet by taking a few simple steps, and investing in some practical security equipment, we can minimise the chances of losing our pets to thieves. Our pets put their trust in us implicitly, and we surely owe it to them to do everything we can to protect them.
This article was written on behalf of Wheldon Law, a criminal solicitors firm that specialise in Dog Law and protecting dogs accused of violent behaviour.