Preventing pet theft and what to do if a dog is stolen

Are you worried about your dog being stolen? Find out how to keep them safe and what to do if they are taken.

Dachshund puppy, outside, on grass, on walk

Losing your dog, or having them taken from you, is an unbearable thought. But, sadly, it’s a reality for the families of 2,000 dogs that are stolen each year in the UK.

A recent study by the charity DogLost estimates a 250% increase in dog thefts nationwide during the pandemic.

You don’t want to think about it happening to your beloved pooch. But if it does, or your looking for advice on how to deter dog thieves, we're here to help.

What to do if your dog is stolen

If your dog is stolen then you can feel helpless and have no idea where to start looking for them. But here are some practical things you can do to give you the best chance of being reunited with your pooch.

  • Report the theft to the police straight away. Make sure you get a crime reference number and insist that your dog is recorded as stolen and not missing.
  • Report the theft of your dog to your local authority dog warden.
  • Notify your microchip database provider.
  • Ask local rescue centres, animal charities and vet practices to keep an eye out for your dog.
  • Monitor places thieves may try to sell your dog, like pet websites, pet shops and notice boards. Notify the police immediately if you come across anything.
  • Use missing and stolen animal websites such as DogLost. They help reunite missing pets with their owners by offering free advice and support.

Need to know: Pet theft has previously been seen as property being taken from the owner. But as we all know, our dogs are far more than a belonging to us. They are part of the family. Following a rise in dogs being stolen over lockdown, the Government Pet Theft taskforce was launched in 2021. It announced that pet abduction will become a criminal offence in England. The aim is to reflect the emotional distress caused but also, to deter thieves in the first place and ensure that the punishment reflects the crime.

Tips for using social media to find your dog

One of the most effective ways to raise awareness of your lost pet is through social media. Here’s six of our top tips, to help you do that.

Tip one: Create a poster with a recent picture of your dog and where they were last seen. Include as much detail of the incident as possible.

Tip two: Post on all the platforms you can and ask your friends and family to do the same.

Tip three: Ask your followers to share your posts.

Tip four: Search social media platforms. If someone finds your dog, they may have posted about it themselves. So, search for identifying features and the location your dog was lost. For example, you could try ‘dog found in Essex’ or ‘brown Labrador found.’

Tip five: Tag animal charities, vets, microchip database providers and local businesses. Ask them to share your posts.

Tip six: Make sure your social media profiles are set to ‘public’ in the security settings.

Labrador puppies, inside, sleeping, at Shoreham rehoming centre

How to prevent dog theft and keep your pet safe at home

Keep thieves away from your home and your pup by making sure you have done all of the below.

  • Ensure your house and property boundaries are secure – keeping your dog in and intruders out
  • Install a sensor light and fit sturdy locks to garden gates - this will prevent trespassers gaining easy access to your property
  • Join your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme
  • Report any suspicious activity to the police
  • Do you post pictures of your dog on social media? Then regularly review your privacy settings and make sure your address can’t be identified from your posts.

Keep your dog spottable at all times

Always knowing where your dog is means thieves won’t have a chance to get hold of them. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re outside with your pooch.

  • Keep an eye on your dog when they are in the garden and never leave them unsupervised
  • When exercising your dog off-lead, always keep them in sight and pay attention to what they are doing
  • Make sure your dog comes back when you call them, regardless of where they are
  • Never leave your dog unattended in a public place - even if it's just for a minute
  • Likewise, never leave your dog alone in a car. As well as the risk of being stolen, {they can also easily overheat}.

Make sure your dog is searchable

If the worst should happen, you want to have done everything you can to help ensure you can be reunited.

  • Make sure your dog is wearing a tag with your name, phone number and address on it
  • Your dog must be microchipped - once they are, let your database provider know if any of your contact details change
  • Keep up-to-date, clear photos of your dog, making sure to show any distinctive features.

Related articles

What to do if you've lost your dog
Outside the home
What to do if you've lost your dog
All you need to know about microchipping
Vet care essentials
All you need to know about microchipping
How we help dog owners
How we help dog owners