Dog owners are being warned to be on their guard, as the number of dogs stolen in the UK has reached a seven-year peak. In 2021, the number of dogs stolen rose by 13 per cent across the UK to 2,760.
This means 53 dogs were stolen every week last year, nearly eight every day, according to figures from pet insurer Direct Line. This is 321 more than in 2020 and 611 more than in 2019, when the lowest rate of dog thefts (2,148) was recorded by the insurer. Since 2015, the number of dogs reported stolen across the country has risen by 16 per cent.
French Bulldogs were the most stolen breed in 2021 and saw a 29 per cent rise compared to the number stolen in 2020. Jack Russell’s came in second, with the number stolen last year more than doubling (140 per cent) compared to the year before. Other small dogs like Chihuahuas and Pugs were also popular targets.
With 16 million people now owning a dog, 3.8 million of whom took ownership during the pandemic, the opportunities for thieves are more abundant than ever. The past couple of years has also led to a rise in the cost of dogs, making them a more lucrative target for criminals. This is particularly the case for pedigrees like French Bulldogs, the dog most likely to be stolen this year, which can cost upwards of £3,000.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers, which were last year’s most popular target for thieves, saw an 88 per cent reduction in 2021 pushing them down to seventh. Crossbreeds such as Cockerpoos and Puggles have also fallen in popularity, from second in 2020 to 10th in 2021.
Most stolen dog breeds, 2021
|1||French Bulldog||35||45||29 per cent|
|2||Jack Russell||10||24||140 per cent|
|4||Chihuahua||15||19||27 per cent|
|6||Springer Spaniel||3||11||267 per cent|
|7||Staffordshire Bull Terrier||85||10||-88 per cent|
|8||Bulldog||7||9||29 per cent|
|9||Labrador||5||9||80 per cent|
|10||Crossbreed||12||8||-33 per cent|
|All breeds||2,438||2,760||+13 per cent|
Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2022
Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance said: “It’s devastating to see the number of dogs stolen continues to increase across the country. Unfortunately, the increase in dog ownership since the pandemic began and the subsequent rise in prices of these animals seems to make the crime even more appealing to thieves. The law will soon recognise dogs as members of the family with feelings, not just owned property and we hope that this will deter criminals, especially if they can be punished more severely if prosecuted.
“Anyone considering buying a dog should thoroughly check its provenance and see the dog with its mother, to ensure they’re not buying from a criminal organisation. And taking simple precautions such as not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop, left inside an empty car or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted. It’s also vital to keep microchipping contact details up to date in case your dog does go missing and is handed in.”
Regional police force data
London once again saw the highest number of dog thefts last year of any region and single police force. The Metropolitan Police Service reported 422 incidents and accounted for 15 per cent of all dogs stolen. The Metropolitan Police Service saw reports increase a third (32 per cent) in 2021 compared to 2020, when 318 dogs were reported stolen.
On an individual police force level, West Yorkshire Police came in second, recording 199 reports of stolen dogs in 2021, nearly two thirds (59 per cent) more than in 2020, (125). Kent Police came in third, receiving reports about 182 stolen dogs in 2021, a 54 per cent rise on the number in 2020 (118). Lancashire Constabulary and South Yorkshire Police complete the top five forces for stolen dog reports in 2021, receiving 116 and 100 reports respectively.
Top 10 police forces for reports of stolen dogs, 2021
|Rank||Police force||2020||2021||y/o/y change (number)||y/o/y change (percentage)|
|1||Metropolitan Police Service||318||422||104||+33 per cent|
|2||West Yorkshire Police||125||199||74||+59 per cent|
|3||Kent Police||118||182||64||+54 per cent|
|4||Lancashire Constabulary||111||116||5||+5 per cent|
|5||South Yorkshire Police||58||100||42||+72 per cent|
|6||Essex Police||51||93||42||+82 per cent|
|7||Dyfed-Powys Police||33||82||49||+148 per cent|
|8||Northumbria Police||92||81||-1||-12 per cent|
|9||Northamptonshire Police||20||53||33||+165 per cent|
|10||Derbyshire Constabulary||30||48||18||+60 per cent|
Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2022
The police forces which received the fewest number of stolen dog reports in 2021 were Lincolnshire and Surrey Police, with just 10 dogs reported stolen in each constabulary. Leicestershire (11), Suffolk (12) and South Wales (16) also received very few reports of stolen dogs last year.
In more positive news for owners, the number of dogs returned also reached a record high last year, with 617 stolen dogs found and returned. This is a 19 per cent increase compared to 2020, when 519 dogs were returned. Norfolk Constabulary reunited the greatest proportion of dogs with owners, returning 25 out of the 29 reported stolen, an 86 per cent success rate. Dorset Police reunited 14 of 17 dogs (82 per cent) and Derbyshire Constabulary reunited 37 out of 48 (77 per cent).
Steps to follow if your dog has been stolen:
- Firstly, check the local area and your dog’s favourite spots in case the dog has wandered off
- Engage the local community and make your dog ‘too hot to handle’ by sharing with local groups, putting up posters, informing local media and using social media – include pictures and any distinctive marks
- There are some specific sites set up to help find lost and stolen dogs, like doglost.co.uk
- Report your dog as stolen to the police and provide them with as much detail as possible
- Report your dog as stolen to local pet related services like vets, animal shelters, pet shops, dog wardens and the council. Provide photos, a physical description and the dogs microchip number
- Report your dog to the microchip database and make sure your contact details are up to date
Tips on how to stop your pet from being stolen
Jonathan Wall, UK General Manager at SimpliSafe shares his advice for helping to prevent your pets from being stolen:
Make sure your pets are microchipped. It’s a quick and easy procedure that can be performed at the vets, and it’s not just dogs that can benefit. Cats and even rabbits can be microchipped.
Dogs must have a collar and tag on with their name and your contact details when they are in public – it’s a legal requirement. It’s also a good idea to have them on when at home, just in case they get out of the garden for example. Don’t forget to collar and tag your cats too if they like to explore.
Another thing you could add to your pet’s collar is a GPS tracker, so you know exactly where they are at all times.
Make sure your garden is as safe and secure as possible, especially if your dog spends a lot of time out there or has free access in and out of the house. The installation of security cameras will not only help deter intruders, but it would capture crucial evidence if someone was to trespass. An Outdoor Camera is also handy to keep an eye on what mischief your pets are up to.
Be Vigilant when on walks
With almost 200 pet thefts across the UK each month, it’s important to stay vigilant when out walking any pets, particularly in more secluded areas. You could vary the times and routes that you take for your walks, or consider going to busier areas.
For an extra layer of protection when you’re out and about, you could get a personal alarm, or trigger your phone’s panic button, which would help deter any thieves and attract attention from other passers-by in the area in the event of an incident.
Be Careful with Social Channels
Be mindful of what you post on social media. You could keep your profile private so only those you trust see what you post, or perhaps if you’re taking pictures of your pet when out for a walk, don’t share your location.
However, in the event your pet was to go missing or stolen, social media can be a great tool to help find them. Facebook has many local community and missing pet groups which the news can be shared in.
Be Aware of Suspicious Activity
Report any suspicious activity to the police. Whether you see someone checking out a house or garden, or an unrecognisable vehicle which is parked where it shouldn’t be.
For more information on how to protect your pets, as well as learning what to do if your pet is stolen, visit: https://simplisafe.co.uk/blog/how-to-prevent-pet-theft