How to protect your dog and prevent them from being stolen
Dog theft is growing in the UK and we are hearing more and more about it every day. Recently, in South Shields, a lady walking her spaniels was attacked after she fought off a dog thief on The Leas.
More than 2000 dogs are being stolen in the UK each year, only 22% of these are recovered, and only 5% of these cases actually lead to charges being brought against the criminals.
Part of the issue here is that, in the law in the UK isn’t strong enough to be a deterrent. In fact, in England and Wales, a dog is considered the same as an inanimate object, and although the maximum sentence for these criminals is 7 years, this would usually only be handed down if a dogs value was OVER £100,000 – which would be exceptionally rare.
In the near future, I hope that legislation will be amended for pet theft to become a specific crime.
There is no doubt that walking our beloved dogs can become more stressful due to these reports.
So, what can we do to prevent this from happening?
· We can prevent those opportunist thieves by making some simple changes to our routines and not leaving dogs tied up outside shops or houses. Likewise, ensure your garden is secure and you are watching your dog while they are out in the garden. You could attach a bell to the garden gate so that it makes a noise when opened too.
· Make sure your dog is microchipped and that your contact details are up to date. It is also law in the UK that all dogs wear tags in public – this should include your name, address and telephone number, but SHOULD NOT include the dog’s name, as this would make it easier for thieves to call a dog if challenged.
· Have clear photos of your dog that can be used to identify them, as well as photos of you with your dog.
· Make sure that you choose someone responsible for caring for your dog while you are at work, such as a dog walker or daycare. Check with them to see what precautions they are taking to prevent dog theft.
How can you prevent your dog being stolen while out on walks?
· Teach your dog a SOLID recall. This will allow you to call your dog back if someone strange is approaching them. The easiest way to do this is by throwing a piece of food a couple of meters in front of them and wait for them to start lifting their head, just as they do, call their name and run in the other direction. When they catch up, give them lots of attention, play with them or give them some tasty treats – whichever THEY will prefer.
· You can also teach your dog to check in with you when someone approaches. Simply pair a word with them receiving a treat, to teach this, say “Treat” (or word of choice) then feed them their favourite treat. Repeat this until they turn around straight away when you say “treat”. When they look at someone approaching on a walk, say your work and give them the treat. Eventually, they will see someone approaching and look back for the tasty treat automatically.
· Be vigilant and watch your surroundings. Take avoidance action if someone is approaching that you do not know. Don’t give strangers information about your dog if asked.
· Change up your walks, take your dog to different places and walk them at
different times so that any potential thieves can’t predict when and where you will be.
· Think about your dog’s equipment. You can attach a longline to a harness and secure it with a carabiner lock – you can even get ones that require a code to unlock. You ca
n use the same type of lock to secure a harness to your dog to prevent anyone from unclipping your dog.
· Cary a Dog Horn. This is a whistle on a bright yellow Lanyard that can be clearly seen. This will tell any potential thief that you are prepared to alert public if they try to steal your dog. You can buy these from www.doghorn.uk.
· You can also carry criminal identifier spray / defence spray. This can be sprayed on someone and they will be unable to wash this off for up to 7 days, making them easily identifiable.
· Wear a body camera. You can pick one of these up from £20 and wear while walking.
· If someone does try to steal your dog, press your power button on your phone 3 times. This will trigger an attack alarm for 3 seconds then automatically call the police and notify your emergency contact.
What should I do if my dog is stolen?
· You need to act fast! Report this theft to police, dog wardens, and post in local Facebook groups. The more people that are looking out for your dog the better.
· Try to take note or get a photo of the criminal’s vehicle and licence plate.
· Contact local vets and the microchip company in case someone tried to register your pet.
Although the thought of pet theft can be scary, we need to remember that this is a rare occurrence. We should try to not let this effect our dogs exercise regimes, quality of walks or the short amount of time we have to enjoy them.
It’s great to see the community really come together to fight dog theft, and together we can make it as difficult as possible for these scumbags to steal our beloved family members.