Dog theft: The dos and don’ts of social media, animals online and pet technology.

Dog thefts have soared since the Covid-19 pandemic began as criminals exploit demand for pets. After the start of lockdown last year, between March and August, ‘Buy a puppy’ Google searches rocketed by 166 per cent, according to DogsTrust. People wanted companion pets to lift their spirits, while thinking it a good time to raise them when stuck working from home. As the market for puppies skyrocketed, so did their value. Pre-pandemic, the average price for a pug was £684. It has doubled to £1,220.

‘Last March, due to lockdown, lots of people thought that this would be the best time to introduce a dog to the family. The demand grew really high, and some people bought them online without asking the diligent background questions you would usually ask when buying in person,’ reported Justin Quirk from DogLost. ‘When some people got wind at how expensive these dogs are, there was an increase of dog thefts by people who realised how valuable a commodity they are.’

According to the Metropolitan Police, 343 dogs and 145 cats have been reported stolen in London since March last year. The actual number is higher as many stolen pets remain unreported.



Here, we look at the dos and don’ts of finding pets online, social media and tech to protect your dog from being stolen:

Do



Keep your dog safe, in sight and searchable. Secure your garden boundary and don’t let your dog stray. Fit a gate bell or alarm and ensure gates are lockable. Consider a visible home security camera or smart doorbell by Ring as a deterrent.

Microchip your dog by the time it is eight weeks old and register details using a microchip database such as Petlog.



Fit your dog with a collar and ID tag. This is a legal requirement when your dog is in a public place. State, on the collar, that the dog is microchipped and if the dog is neutered which may deter thieves who are looking to steal dogs to breed from. The collar should have your contact details, and not the dog’s name which would aid the thieves to lure them away.

Consider investing in pet wearable tech, linked to a smartphone app via WiFi or Bluetooth, that displays your pet’s live location on a map and may give peace of mind. Consider a GPS pet tracker collar, a pet camera or a smart collar which monitors activity and sleeping patterns like a ‘fitbit for pets’.

Store up-to-date photos of your dog from various angles, and in various grooming conditions (long hair, trimmed) on your phone. Note distinctive markings to help police identify your dog and prove ownership if needed.

Monitor sites Gumtree or pets4homes where thieves may try to sell your dog.

Sign this petition to make dog theft a specific criminal offence.



Write to your parliamentary representative lending your support against dog thefts using The Kennel Clubs dog theft template letter.

If Your Dog Is Stolen



Act fast.

Dial 999 and report your dog as stolen to the police. Provide as much information, explain that it is a theft rather than a lost animal. Keep note of the crime reference number. ‘Anyone who believed their pooch has been taken should report the incident to police immediately,’ urges the RSPCA. ’We believe the rise in dognapping could be as a result of the surging popularity, and value, of fashionable and ‘designer’ breeds.’

Report the theft to the microchip database holding your dog’s details. If anyone tries to re-register the chip number, you will be informed. Equally, if the dog is recovered, it will be possible to reunite you this way.

Report it to DogLost, the UK’s largest lost and found dog service. The charity has nearly 47,000 followers, many who retweet the posts and spread the word about missing pets.

Contact your local council’s dog warden.



Launch an online campaign to find your stolen dog using all the social media platforms you have access to. Put out appeals on facebook, Twitter and Instagram using photos listing unusual traits that make your dog identifiable. Ensure your social media profile privacy settings are set to public. Ask friends and families to share information quickly. Create a hashtag so you can see who is tweeting about your lost dog.

Ask animal charities, vets and microchip database providers to post and share your content on social media.

If your dog is stolen, and you want to find a new one, consider the thousands of dogs in rescue homes that are looking for new owners.

Don’t



Don’t show off your dog or add location tags on Instagram or Snapchat (unless stolen, and then utilise social media to your best advantage). Dog thieves trawl social media for local pets to steal.

Don’t add hashtags with pictures of pets on social media (again, unless using the platform to locate a stolen animal). Police warn that the viral Facebook and Instagram #MeetMyDog challenge aid thieves to find their target.



Don’t leave your dog tied up outside shops, even if just for a minute, as it becomes a target are opportunist thieves.

Don’t buy an animal via social media. The pandemic has increased the number of illicit puppy breeders advertising on Instagram making the most of this aesthetic shop window. The hashtag #puppiesforsale has over 900k posts. ‘There are people out there who know how much people want puppies, and they are taking advantage of that,’ says Dr Samantha Gaines of the RSPCA. She is concerned by the Instagram puppy market where many of the animals are raised in unsanitary puppy farms, separated from parents and siblings and not given proper medical attention or vaccinations. According to Kennel Club data, 18% of puppies found via social media die, or get unwell before their first birthday. ‘You absolutely should not ever buy a dog through Instagram. Absolutely do not,’ insists Gaines. ‘Go directly to a reputable breeder.’

By Annabel Jack
May 2021

READ MORE
5 Of The Best Dog-Friendly Holiday Cottages
7 Sites You Need To Know When Adopting A Rescue Dog
10 Best Insta Follows For English Country Garden Inspo

Annabel Jack

Contributing Editor

Annabel is a regular contributor to The GWG, with a taste for finest in food, fashion and interiors.

FIND OUT MORE