Dog and puppy theft: what to do and how to stop it 

The pandemic has seen all kinds of unintended consequences. A worrying development has been the unhealthy relationship between demand for pets, supply and opportunistic price hikes. Puppies are now being sold at crazy prices; in some cases, for many thousands of pounds. 

Pet sales are now big business, criminals have seen an opportunity and pet theft is on the rise, with animals being snatched in broad daylight. Thieves are no doubt emboldened by the current status of pets in law. Dogs and pets are classified as non-sentient ‘goods’, and theft of a pet carries no greater penalty than theft of any inanimate object. A petition in 2018 sought to reclassify pet theft to a specific crime in its own right, with much greater penalties, without success. This year, evidence-based campaign group Pet Theft Reform has resurrected the need for urgent action and are pushing for amendments to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to make pet theft a specific offence and dog theft a specific criminal offence. 

Avoiding theft 

  • Ensure your pet is microchipped and your dog wears a collar tag with your name, address and telephone number but WITHOUT your pet’s name. Ensure your contact details are kept up-to-date. 
  • Keep up-to-date photos of your pet. Have a variety of angles.  
  • Keep proof of ownership materials. Photos of you with your pet, vet records and bills, are also useful. Decide who in your family is the legal owner and keep things consistent, to avoid any ambiguity. 
  • Unless your dog or puppy has a solid recall do not allow them to move away from you at distance. Use a long line. 
  • Be especially vigilant in heavily wooded areas or areas with cover. Do not let your puppy or dog out of your sight. 
  • Do not leave dogs tied up outside shops or cafes or unattended in cars. Thieves will smash car windows or door locks to retrieve a pet. 
  • Be scrupulous about any dog services (dog walker, daycare, groomers). They have legal obligations in terms of care and custody of your dog. Are they as careful as you would like? Scrutinise qualifications, insurance and references. 
  • Do not let children walk the dog or puppy unsupervised. Consider how aware your nanny is. 
  • Avoid strangers who show an interest in your dog, especially those asking questions about name, age and breed. Thieves will pose with dogs of their own to garner trust. 
  • Try to vary walk routes. 
  • Ensure your garden is secure and observe your animals if there is external access to your garden. 

What to do if a pet is stolen 

  • Don’t delay. Report theft or a missing animal to your council, the police, your vet and missing animal services like, many of which are nationwide- who will also list cats and other pets. 
  • Report to your pet’s microchip register. Attempts can be made to de-register chips. 
  • Ensure the police record your pet as theft, not just missing, and get a crime reference number. 
  • Make use of local social media and pet owning communities. They will be keen to help.  
  • Make posters with photos and place them in local parks, vets and social media. 
  • Get the word out to animal rescues and charities. 
  • For emotional support contact the Blue Cross pet bereavement service at or Tel: 0800 096 6606 

Leonie St Clair|