2020 was the worst year for dog thefts in the UK and has continued to be a huge problem in 2021, with an estimated 250% increase in dognappings nationwide. Dogs have been stolen from outside shops, robbed from owners at knife point, but are most commonly taken from people’s gardens. More sophisticated criminals have even posed as RSPCA officers.

It’s an unsettling reality for dog owners across the country. Below we have advice on how you can best protect your dog from being stolen, and what you need to do if thieves do take your dog.

Helping prevent your dog from being stolen

Due to the boldness of these criminals you should consider adjusting some routines and being mindful of opportunist thieves:  

  • Don’t leave your dog tied up outside shops.
  • Don’t leave your dog unattended in your car – dog thieves will break in.
  • When out walking be cautious of strangers asking questions about your dog.
  • Don’t post pictures of your dog online or on social media as dognappers are suspected of tracking walking routes when planning thefts. Don’t add location tags if you do post pictures of your dog.
  • Don’t leave your dog unsupervised in the garden and make sure gates are locked.

Good training and responsible ownership

Some basics should be kept in mind to ensure you are doing everything you can to help protect your dog:

  • It’s important for general safety that your dog knows to come back to you when called. Making sure they are well trained to heeling can prevent them from straying too far away. You could always use a long leash if you’re unconfident your dog will heel when called.
  • It is a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped and wearing an ID tag when out in public. Make sure these details are correct with an up to date address and contact info.

What to do if your dog is stolen

If the worst happens and your dog is taken, the following advice has been provided by the RSPCA and the Blue Cross:

  • Report the theft as soon as possible to your council’s dog warden and those in all other neighbouring local authorities. Find your local dog warden here.
  • If you’re certain your dog has been stolen and not just lost, you need to report it to the police as soon as you can and request a crime reference number.
  • Register your stolen dog at a Microchip Database company. If anyone tries to re-register the chip number, you will be informed. Unfortunately there is no single database to register on, but the three most popular dog chip databases are: Petslocated, Dogslost or the National Pets register.
  • Missing posters can also be useful in getting your dog back as well as spreading awareness of dog thefts to others.
  • Contact local veterinary clinics and animal shelters and provide them with photos in case anyone brings your dog in.

Report a breeder

If you suspect a breeder is selling puppies illegally and without a breeding licence, you should contact your local authority.