Dog theft is on the rise for the fourth year in a row, according to new figures obtained by Blue Cross pet charity. A Freedom of Information (FOI) request carried out with UK police forces show dog theft crimes rose by a third in 2015 compared to 2014¹. The FOI also asked for locations the dogs were stolen from and, despite many owners believing dogs are taken from a public place², the data shockingly reveals over 70% of dogs were stolen from where they live³, almost half from within the home itself4.
Tricia Scott’s poodle cross Sherbert was taken from her garden in Newport on 15 October. She said: “I can honestly say it's like I have lost a child. My boys are distraught! The only thing that has kept us going has been the support from people. It is getting harder as the weeks are going on not knowing if he is being cared for and is happy.”
Blue Cross’s Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS) has been helping pet owners for over 20 years with free, confidential support. Each year the charity receives over 8,000 calls and emails from people who have lost a pet, – some as the victim of pet theft.
Diane James, from the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service said: “We take many calls from owners who are missing their pet, including when a pet has been stolen. We offer support for those struggling to cope with the loss of their pet and give advice to help their children, who can be particularly upset and confused by the loss of their beloved family member.”
Linsey Thomas’s French bulldog puppy Betty was also stolen from the garden. She commented: “Betty was stolen just before my daughter Daisy’s seventh birthday. She has been the most affected by this and refused to have a party or any birthday presents as she just wanted her puppy back. It’s been tough for us all but Daisy is devastated.”
Over half of pet owners believe thieves target homes to steal the family pet5. Dog breeds stolen over the last two years have included small, fashionable breeds like French bulldogs, pugs, Shih-tzus and Chihuahuas7. Most owners believe they are sold on for cash or used for breeding while others believe they are being used as bait by gangs for illegal dog fighting or for reward or ransom7. 69% of owners think criminals who steal pets should face harsher penalties than those who steal property such as a laptop of mobile phone8.
Blue Cross Preventative advice:
• Make sure you can keep an eye on your dog when they are in the garden and that all fences and gates are secure and in good repair.
• Prevent your dog from sitting in the window or behind a glass door in view of any passers-by
• Don’t leave your dog alone in the car or tied outside a shop.
• Take clear photographs of your pet from different angles to help prove ownership if needed.
• Train your dog to come back to you when called if in a strange place or if in doubt they will return keep them on an extended lead.
• Beware of strangers asking questions about your dog.
• Make sure you pet has a microchip to increase the chance of being reunited and don’t forget to update your contact details if you move home – now a legal requirement for dogs.
If the worst happens:
• If your pet is stolen report the crime to the police.
• Contact your local animal warden and rescue centres in case your pet escapes or is dumped.
• Use social media to get images of your stolen pet in the public domain
Police advice to secure homes against burglars:
• Fit key operated locks to all downstairs and easy to access windows.
• Lock doors and windows every time you leave the house – even when in the garden.
• Hide all keys out of sight and away from the letter box.
• Install a burglar alarm and good outside lighting.
• Consider joining or forming a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme.
• Consider replacing glass door panels with stronger laminated glass.
The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement support line is open 365 days a year from 8.30am until 8.30pm on Freephone number (some mobile networks may charge) 0800 096 6606 and also by emailing [email protected].
Blue Cross is a charity and does not receive government funding. To find out more about the charity’s work, to see pets needing new homes or to make a donation visit www.bluecross.org.uk
Notes to Editors
• Spokespeople and victims of pet theft available for interview, please contact press office.
• Images of Sherbert and Daisy with puppy Betty are available, please contact press office.
• Regional pet theft stats and case studies may be available on:
- Number of dogs stolen in 2015 and to 30 September 2016
- Locations of pet theft as listed in UK forces data (where given)
- Breeds stolen as listed in regional forces data (where given)
- Regional case studies (where available)
• ¹Figures based on responses from 38 UK police forces to an FOI request issued by Blue Cross. At least 1797 dogs were reported stolen in 2015 compared to 1333 in 2014.
• ² Survey with 2000 pet owners conducted by Onepoll. 43% think pets are taken from outside a shop, on the street on a walk or when off the lead in a park.
• 3 Figures from FOI response of 30 police forces. Out of 1119 dogs stolen 803 were taken from their home or garden.
• 4 FOI data as above, 426 dogs were reported stolen from home/dwelling
• 5 Onepoll pet owner survey as above. 55% pet owners believe criminals are targeting specific homes to steal pets.
• 6 FOI data from 36 Police forces responding to FOI request. IN 2015 and 2016 (to 30 September) stolen breeds included 54 French bulldogs, 70 pugs, 51 shih-tzus and 103 Chihuahuas.
• 7 Onepoll survey with pet owners. 79% believed pets were stolen to sell, 55% for breeding from and 43% to be used as bait for dog fighting.
• 8 Onepoll survey with pet owners. 69% agreed with the statement “I think criminals who steal pets should face harsher penalties than thieves who steal property such as a mobile phone, computer or bicycle.”
• Home security advice resource: www.police.uk/crime-prevention-advice/burglary/
• From the 8.5m pet dogs owned in the UK (Pet Food Manufacturers Association pet population 2015 report) 1797 / 0.02% dogs were stolen in 2015
• Sick, injured and homeless pets have relied on Blue Cross since 1897. Abandoned or unwanted, ill or injured, pets turn to us for help every year. Our doors are always open to them, and with your support, they always will be.
• Each year, thousands of cats, dogs, small pets and horses turn to our animal hospitals, clinics and rehoming services for treatment and to find them the happy homes they deserve.
• For more information, please visit www.bluecross.org.uk.
Louise Lee, Blue Cross press office 020 7932 4066 / [email protected]