Dog Theft in Lockdown

The coronavirus pandemic has had many detrimental effects, whether that be mental, social or financial. But something that seems to have escaped mainstream attention is the rise in dog theft. The multiple lockdowns have given more opportunity for this crime, shown by the fact that five UK police forces had more reports of stolen dogs between January and July 2020, than in the whole of 2019.


But why should dog theft have risen at all?  One reason is the huge increase of the demand for a pet- with families having the time to care for a puppy or owners simply seeking a companion whilst we’ve been trapped in our homes. The demand outweighed the supply, meaning breeders can put prices high for puppies, driving more people to steal them as they are unwilling to pay the thousands of pounds in asking price.


The type of person willing to ‘dognap’ varies based on motivation. Specialists involved in organised crime often steal and breed dogs for financial gain, due to it being a relatively unnoticed crime. Some will swipe a dog from gardens or unsecured properties when the opportunity arises. Others rely on the income that comes from stealing dogs and cite the practice as their occupation. Lastly, there are those that do it simply to cause pain – maybe as an act of revenge or to punish a badly behaved dog that they come across.


The sad fact is that ‘dognappers’ feel more motivated to steal dogs when realising the minimal risk and penalty if caught. It is predicted around 1% of dog thefts go to court, and even then the punishment is often only a small fine, meaning the gain of, for example, £2000 for selling a stolen dog outweighs the risk of being fined £250. These criminals are almost always confirmed to make money out of their thefts, as customers rarely complete the correct background checks on breeders to ensure puppies have been raised ethically. Light punishment for dog theft roots systemically, given that a dog valued at less than £500 is treated as a category four theft – the lowest category, and rarely leading to a prison sentence, again proving that the benefit often outweighs the risk for these thieves.


The theft of dogs can be tragic for anyone victim to it, even causing mental illness such as anxiety and PTSD. There are a few simple ways of preventing the risk of your dog being stolen. Make sure your dog has a collar with an ID tag including your name and contact number. Putting your dog’s name on the tag may put them at more risk if they are taken, as dognappers can train them up for their benefit. Make sure your garden or any outdoor areas you let your dog roam in are secure, or, failing that, keep a constant watch of them. Ensuring your dog is microchipped can help to track them down in the event that they do get stolen. The overriding prevention tactic is to always be certain that you are aware of your dog's location and that they're safe. By staying vigilant, dog owners can deter thieves from attempting a theft, as it will become riskier for them to do so.



Words By: Ellie Back

Edited By: Dasha Pitts-Yushchenko