Spotlight on dog thefts
Advice for owners as pet popularity soars
Hardly a day goes by now when one does not read or hear about another beloved dog being stolen.
Several years ago one could take their dogs for a nice walk in the woods and let them off the lead without any worries, knowing they would return at your call for being trained to do so.
Freedom was what it was all about – unclip the lead and a run along the beach or a swim in the sea was normal for most owners.
Sadly, now they are having to look over their shoulder all the time.
What have owners got to be aware of now? Seeking veterinary advice about microchipping and having that done is top of the list.
It is now law to have all dogs chipped after eight weeks – if not, a potential fine of up to £500 can be issued.
Make sure your dog is registered with local rescue centres and check on those that offer dog walking opportunities. Get out your trusty camera or mobile phone and take some photos – remembering to update these with age and any specific features that make your pal that little bit different.
Those involved in stealing dogs are aware that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people are seeking the company of a pet.
They will charge high prices and advertise on websites, with animals even sold overseas.
Others stolen are used for breeding purposes and the puppies again sold on.
It can feel like no-one is safe now. I have heard of harrowing cases, such as the elderly pensioner walking her ‘best pal’ on a pavement in Kent when a passer-by stopped her to say what a nice dog she had. Before she knew it, the lead was snatched out of her hand and the dog was bundled into a nearby car.
It caused such a stir in the village where she had lived most of her life that TV’S favourite doggy man Paul O’grady got involved. It was some six weeks later that it was found with a new owner, who had purchased it at a high price and in good faith, and was unaware it had been stolen. It was following a check-up at her vets that they discovered the microchip did not register her as the owner. It was duly returned to the original owner without any worries.
Another new trend is to even steal a pet in the open. A recent case saw two people come up to the owner on a beach and ask about her dog, which was running by the water’s edge. While the owner was distracted, a third person offered the dog some goodies, put a collar on it and ran off, placing it in a nearby vehicle and fleeing.
Owners should not leave a dog unattended in car, tied up outside a shop or even in an open garden.
Regional policing units are now setting up stolendog teams and these are advising owners how they can protect their beloved pets.
If, for example, one sees a van driving around a nice, residential estate looking at properties on a regular basis, beware, as they may be looking to identify dogs for taking.
This is happening a lot more, even when the owner is at home.
Secure your back garden gates and check fences for any damage which would allow your dog to get out after being called by the potential thief.
Some of the small dog breeds are now very popular and expensive. As Lucy’s Law veterinary surgeon
Marc Abraham said: “Puppy farming is now being reduced and new regulations relating to this are in place.
“However, as a result the need for young dogs has increased and dog theft has spiralled to its highest level ever.”
Along with others, there are requests by many MPS for the penalties for the stealing of pets to be greater and to make the sale of stolen animals much harder.
Lucy’s Law is a new law aimed at cracking down on so-called puppy farms.
It will ban pet shops and commercial dealers from selling puppies and kittens unless they have bred the animal themselves.
Instead, anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under six months old must either deal directly with the breeder or an animal rehoming centre.
Named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel which died after being subjected to terrible conditions on a puppy farm, the new law will require animals to be born and reared in a safe environment, with their mother, and to be sold from their place of birth.
Microchipping is so important but not all owners do this.
Thefts increased by 170 per cent last year – if only all had been microchipped they could be returned home once found.
The RSPCA and Blue Cross, along with other charitable organisations, are working hard to get new regulations passed.
A spokesperson for one of them said: “We really are concerned in the increase of such thefts and every day we hear of such harrowing cases.
“Many owners are elderly and to them their dog is their life and trusty companion.
“They are unable to defend themselves if their pet is forcibly taken from them and some of those involved show little respect for the wellbeing of the owner.”
Your local veterinary practice is there to offer advice and owners should feel free to visit their nearest
practice and find out how they can help.
They may know of safer areas to walk dogs – of approved and trusted dog walkers who can help the elderly who are unable to get out like they used to.
Vets can offer advice also about costings for microchipping and how to secure one’s home to make it that bit safer.
With so many people wanting smaller dogs, cat flaps can attract their attention also, with potential thieves opening one and calling the dog.
As for the name of your dog – not a wise move to have it
showing on the collar or a nice posh name tag. Once seen, a potential thief could call and guess who might go running to them?
Your best friend, perhaps sadly never to be seen again.
In conclusion, as writer of this feature rest assured I am not trying to frighten you – I am trying, with the help of the veterinary profession and other supportive organisations, including the police, to halt this terrible increase in thefts.
Dogs are part of families and to some the loss of a dog is no different to losing a loved one.
They give you love, affection
and warmth and you can do the same by giving them that extra care and attention during these current times.
The need for young dogs has increased and dog theft has spiralled to its highest level
■ John Periam is a photojournalist with many features published as well as three books. One, ‘A Veterinary
Tail – Uphill and Down Dale’ refers to his experiences as a veterinary salesman in the 1960s. He still has strong links to the profession through his equestrian work. He is also a regular contributor to a trade paper for the UK fishing industry. His books are available for Kindle from Amazon.co.uk
MARC ABRAHAM Veterinary surgeon