We all have a lot on our minds right now, and – more than ever – many of us are finding the companionship of our dogs to be a tonic for tough times. Our pets mean so much to us, and for that reason, when we hear about dog theft, we inevitably feel a chill up our spine. It’s important to know, then, just how common dog theft is, and whether it is on the rise.
Recent research suggests dog theft has increased
Sadly, there is data to show that the crime of dog theft has become more common since the start of the first UK lockdown in March 2020. According to the pet safety organisation Dog Lost, which helps owners retrieve lost animals, the rate of dog theft has risen by 170% in that time. Worse still, they report that only around 1% of dog thefts ever make it to court.
Why is this happening?
As is so often the case, many thieves’ motives for dognapping are financial. At a time when quick monetary gain is increasingly appealing – however illicit – it is unsurprising as well as heartbreaking that some would look upon dog theft as a good opportunity. As Beverley Cuddy, editor of the magazine Dogs Today put it: “Unfortunately in lockdown, everyone wanted a dog and the prices went up and up. The criminals looked at those figures… and put two and two together.”
Is anything being done about this?
Given that we are a nation of dog lovers, you won’t be surprised to learn that this rise has been met with widespread calls for action. In October, those calls were heard at the heart of the corridors of power, as two petitions in favour of making pet theft a specific criminal offence were debated in the House of Commons, having been signed by nearly 300,000 people. This month, Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke about the issue on LBC, and while she did not commit to any change in the law, she did say the government was “looking into what kind of measures can be put in place”.
Dog theft is still rare
Despite the upsetting rise in cases, it is important to remember that dog theft is still a rare occurrence. Research undertaken by Direct Line Pet Insurance in 2019, based on information provided by police forces across the UK, showed that an average of five dogs are reported stolen every day nationwide. While this number may sound shocking, it might be reassuring to consider that the overall figure of 1959 for the year represents only a minuscule amount of the overall dog population. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, there were nine million pet dogs in the UK in 2018, meaning that only 0.0002% will have been reported stolen. Even if that figure were to be a slight underestimate, it’s still a tiny one. While it is always wise to be alert and keep your dog safe, you should rest easy knowing that dog theft is still uncommon.