What to do if your pet is lost or stolen

A lost or stolen pet is very upsetting for every owner. Get advice on how to prevent it and what to do should the worst happen.

Pet thefts on the rise

Sadly, pet loss and theft are increasingly common. According to the Missing Pets Bureau, around 38% of all animals reported lost have actually been stolen, and the number of dog thefts rose by 20% from 2015 to 2018.

While these statistics can be alarming, there are steps you can take to help prevent your pet from becoming lost or stolen.


Why are pets stolen?

There are several reasons, but it usually comes down to financial gain. For example, they could be sold for a high price or taken to so-called breeding farms. Pedigree or popular ‘designer’ breeds are often the most at risk, although all dogs are vulnerable.

The most commonly stolen dog breeds in 2018 were the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, French Bulldog, Chihuahua and Jack Russell. Most pet thefts occur in the home or garden, with only a small number taken in public places.


Ten ways to help prevent pet theft and loss

  1. Avoid leaving dogs unsupervised in open gardens, empty cars or tied up outside shops.
  2. Always lock doors and windows whenever you leave pets at home on their own.
  3. Teach dogs a solid recall, especially if letting them off the leash in public parks.
  4. Bring cats indoors overnight.
  5. Secure outdoor rabbit hutches to keep them safe in the dark.

  6. Rabbit-proof your garden by repairing any broken fences and blocking off areas under and around the back of sheds.
  7. It’s a good idea to get your pet spayed or castrated to prevent them being a target for breeding farms. Neutered pets are much less appealing to thieves due to their inability to reproduce; consider adding an ‘I am neutered’ tag to their collar.
  8. Many owners love to share moments with their pets online but remember to be mindful about who may see these pictures. Always turn your phone’s location off to avoid broadcasting your exact whereabouts on social media, which could leave you open to theft.
  9. For dogs and cats that wear collars, make sure they have an ID tag that clearly displays your contact details. Resist the temptation to put their name on their collar, as thieves could use it to lure them away.
  10. Microchipping your pet can save a lot of heartache should they ever go missing. It’s a legal requirement for all dogs, but it’s also highly recommended for cats and rabbits, as it means they can be quickly identified by a vet or rescue centre. Don’t forget to keep your details up to date on the database too.


What to do if your pet is lost or stolen

Losing a pet is stressful and emotional, but it’s important to stay calm. Here are some steps you can take:

  • If your pet has a microchip, let the registered database know immediately so they can alert you if their chip has been scanned.
  • Make sure there’s always someone to answer the phone number on your pet’s collar or microchip.
  • If you’ve lost a dog while out on a walk, go back to your car or your front door; dogs will sometimes find their way back to wait for their owners.
  • If your dog is particularly sociable, it may be a good idea to check local shops and leave your details and description of your dog with a member of staff.
  • Thoroughly search the local area, making sure to check around trees and bushes for cats and rabbits. You may want to take some of their favourite strong-smelling treats, blankets or toys to help attract them.
  • Let your neighbours, postal workers and local dog walkers know that your pet is missing so they can keep an eye out, too.
  • If your town or village has a community Facebook page, post about your missing pet to raise awareness and give your contact details.
  • Contact nearby vet clinics, your local animal warden and rescue centres to see if your pet has been handed in and to alert them.
  • Registering on missing pet websites can also help track down lost animals.
  • If you believe your pet has been stolen, report it to the police immediately. If your pet was taken from a public place, find out if there are any CCTV cameras in the area and ask the police or local council to search it for evidence.
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For more advice to protect your pet against loss or theft, speak to your local Medivet practice

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