Protecting your pet during Lockdown 3.0

Britain is a nation of animal lovers. And the thought of an extension of your family being stolen may be heartbreaking, but unfortunately it is on the rise.

An increase in dog thefts has been reported across the country, and five policing areas saw a double-digit rise from January – July 2020, compared with 2019*.

Despite this, did you know that the theft of a dog or other animal is treated the same by the police as a stolen mobile phone or bicycle?

Yes, you read that right. Pet theft is currently seen as no different to the theft of an inanimate object.

The theft of a pet is still classed as a ‘low-level’ crime, despite the devastation it causes. Few pet thieves are ever caught, and if they are, the current sentencing does not fit the crime. And a recent government petition calling for tougher sentencing was debated in Parliament but did not pass.

With Lockdown 3.0 in the UK, home security systems provider, SimpliSafe, spoke with one of the UK’s biggest organisations dedicated to dog health and welfare, Kennel Club, and founder of the Pet Theft Reform campaign, Dr Daniel Allen – who both share the same concerns – to raise awareness amongst pet owners and provide tips on keeping our furry friends safe.

While pet theft has always been a low-risk and high-reward crime, things have only gotten worse since the pandemic started in early 2020 as Dr Daniel Allen, Animal Geographer at Keele University explains:

“There has been a massive demand for canine companionship during the pandemic, and the economic value of dogs has soared. Puppies are being stolen to order; dogs are being stolen for breeding in puppy farms; some breeds stolen for order; others stolen as bait for dog fighting. The risk of small fines will not stop the rise in dog thefts, and certainly will not stop organised crime.”

A Kennel Club spokesperson added:

“Criminals see a money-making opportunity and exploit these bursts of popularity, as often these dogs can be sold for thousands of pounds.

“We have always been in favour of tougher sentencing and stronger penalties for pet theft and have urged the government to make pet theft a specific offence, so that it recognises the theft of a dog, or any pet for that matter, has impacts that far exceeds any associated financial loss.”

But all is not lost. Prevention is much better than cure in this instance.

To help owners during this scary time, SimpliSafe has helpful tips on keeping your pets safe and sound throughout the year. These are just a few; find more in their full guide of how to prevent pet theft.

  1. Owners should make sure that their dogs are microchipped and that their details are registered and kept up to date with a microchip database such as Petlog.
  2. Owners should take preventative measures, including ensuring their home has an alarm system, not leaving their dog tied up outside a shop or other public place, and making sure they can see their dog when out and about on walks.
  3. Make sure your home is secure from the outside. Simple measures such as driveway gates, motion sensor lights and home security cameras can really deter burglars who may look for quick opportunities to swipe valuable pets.

If your dog unfortunately does go missing or is stolen, it’s crucial to act quickly. Immediately report the crime to the police and ensure you are given a crime reference number – and that your dog is correctly reported as stolen, not lost. Notify your microchip provider and alert your local authority dog warden if you have one, as well as nearby rescue centres and vets. Social media can also be a helpful tool to spread the word quickly.

Despite disappointments in 2020, Dr Allen is already working on next steps for his campaign:

“The rise in dog thefts is driven by organised crime. We need Pet Theft Reform to give courts access to appropriate custodial sentences to act as a deterrent, provide punishment, and protect the public. The Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (Sampa) will continue raising public awareness and lobbying the government until Pet Theft Reform is implemented.”   

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