What to do if your pet is stolen
Theft is a criminal offence and should be reported to your local police force as soon as possible. Make sure you give the police as much information about your pet’s physical appearance as possible, including photos, and details about what happened when your pet was stolen. If your pet is microchipped, ask the police officer to take a note of the microchip number. If you or anyone witnessed your pet being stolen, give the police a clear description of the thief and any details about vehicles that were used.
Ask the police for a crime reference number when you report your pet as stolen. This makes sure the theft is logged on the system as a crime, rather than just an incident, and acts as a reference number that you can follow up on.
Tell your pet’s microchip company. If your pet is microchipped, call the database that their chip is registered to and ask them to mark their record as a stolen pet. Give them the crime reference number you’ve got from the police. This means that if your pet is found and scanned, the person scanning will be alerted straight away that your pet is stolen and they can inform the police. If you don’t know which database your pet’s microchip is registered to, you can find out by putting the chip number into the Check a Chip website.
If your dog is stolen, tell your dog warden. Dog warden services are run by your local authority and could be provided by a county, district or borough council. To check which authority you should report your missing dog to, you can put your postcode into the government’s website here. Dog wardens are responsible for missing dogs while the police are responsible for stolen dogs, but it’s still worth alerting the dog warden as your dog may end up in their care.
Register your pet with DogLost. It’s free to register, and while it’s mainly for dogs, owners of other missing pets, including cats and birds, use it to encourage people to keep an eye out. DogLost will send an alert to people in your area to let them know your pet has been stolen and ask them to join the search.
Alert local vet practices and rescue centres. Give them a description of your stolen pet and your contact details and ask them to call you if your pet is brought to them.
Put up posters. Use clear photos of your pet and stick up posters in the area your pet was stolen.
Call or email us if you need emotional support. Our free and confidential Pet Bereavement Support Service offers a friendly and sympathetic listening service for anyone experiencing the loss of a pet. Having a pet stolen can be extremely emotional and upsetting, and talking about it with an understanding person, or writing your feelings down in an email, can help.
What’s the law on pet theft?
It may surprise you to learn that in the nation of animal lovers, pet theft is not a crime in its own right. Under the law, pets are considered ‘chattles’, which means they are seen as possessions and hold the same legal rights as a mobile phone or TV when stolen.
Although the maximum prison sentence for theft is seven years, the law considers pets in terms of their monetary value and bases sentencing on this. With many pets being worth less than £500, sentencing for pet theft often means convicted thieves do not go to prison for their crime. We believe a custodial sentence would act as a deterrent against pet theft.
What is Blue Cross doing about pet theft?
Blue Cross has been campaigning for changes to pet theft laws for many years. We have written to and met with politicians to ask them to make prison sentencing for stealing a pet much tougher to act as a deterrent and help stop the crime from happening. We believe pet theft should be a crime in its own right, taking into account that pets are living animals and part of our families, and the distress theft causes to both the pet and their family.
Blue Cross runs a free and confidential support line for anyone going through the loss of a pet, including for owners whose pets have been stolen. If your pet has been stolen and you’d like to speak to an understanding person about your loss, please call us on 0800 096 6606 from 8.30am – 8.30pm, or email [email protected] if you’d prefer to write your feelings down. Find out more about our Pet Bereavement Support Service here.