How to keep your dog or cat safe from pet theft

Pet theft is increasingly common. This week on the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk, Pete discussed the issue of lost, stolen and wandering pets.

Stolen/ missing dogs in Ireland

Every week there are reports of dogs going missing/ being stolen/ being found as strays. There are two issues going on here- related but very different to one another. Both issues will be significantly helped by compulsory microchipping of all dogs: this will happen for puppies from Sept 2015 and for all adult dogs from April 2016. This initiative will permanently link dogs to owners, in the same way as car registration links cars to owners.

Missing dogs: Dogs wandering from home

There is a traditional Irish habit of letting dogs take themselves for a walk: people just open the gate and let them go. They come back several hours later and the owners proudly tell you that they have just taken themselves for a walk. This may have been fine in the days of sparsely populated countryside villages with no motorised traffic but it does not “work” in modern Ireland.

This is against the law (under Dog Control Act, dog owners need to have their dogs under effectual control at all times) but it does not stop people from doing it.

Some dogs are “escape artists” – unneutered male dogs and female dogs in season are especially prone to this. They escape, despite their owner’s best efforts.

In both of the above situations, the dogs are often seen out wandering in the local community. They may eventually find their way home, or they may be picked up by kindly members of the public who are then bemused about what to do with them. The local dog warden may also pick them up.

Legally, all dogs are meant to carry their ID on a tag or collar around their neck, and this facilitates prompt return of such wandering dogs. However this is seldom done.

A microchip would also help a lot (at my clinic in Bray I am asked to scan a dog that has been found wandering at least once a week).

Stolen dogs: there are several reasons for dogs being stolen

Dog theft seems to be reported with increasing frequency in Ireland. The latest one that I have heard about happened last week: see email at bottom of page. There are new reports most weeks but the latest one – involving a Great Dane – is unusual because of the rare appearance of the dog.

It is difficult to know exactly what’s going on here (it’s a black market activity) but it’s felt that a number of different types are involved, including criminal gangs and individuals on the move around the country. The reasons for theft include:

  • To be sold on (esp pedigree dogs)
  • To be used for dog fighting as bait (any dog)
  • To be used for racing (esp running type dogs such as lurchers)
  • To be held to ransom

The best answer for owners is to prevent theft in the first place. When you hear the invididual stories of theft, it’s clear that it can often be prevented. Dogs should be treated as valued possesions. You wouldn’t leave an expensive camera outside a shop or on its own in your front garden: you shouldn’t leave your dog exposed like that either.

To prevent theft:

  1. Microchip your dog and double check that your online database contact details match the chip (ask your vet to check for you if you don’t know how).
  2. Have your dog spayed or neutered
  3. Put a tag on your dog highlighting that he/she is microchipped and spayed/neutered. This will reduce the desirability of the animal.
  4. When exercising/walking your dog keep him/her on a lead at all times in public areas (a woman walking her dog on a beach recently had her dog off lead and two men tried to bundle her dog in to their car)
  5. Don’t have your dog out in public unless under adult supervision (Two strangers tried to take a dog off a child while being walked by the child.)
  6. Dogs are sometimes stolen from boarding kennels and pet minders. When using these services, ask them and verify if dogs have ever been stolen while in their care. Also ask them about security measures and if they have insurance.
  7. If your dog is kept in the yard or garden, ensure that it is kept in a locked pen/run. Or that the walls of the yard are secure enough to stop to thieves climbing over.
  8. Don’t tie your dog up unsupervised outside a shop.
  9. Don’t leave your dog unattended in the car – first, of course, because of heat, but also because of theft. There are many instances of dogs being stolen from parked unattended cars.
  10. Dogs are even being stolen from homes so normal security is important – lock doors and windows, put on alarms etc.

Additionally, people who are concerned about dog theft would like to achieve two goals:

  1. They would like vets to scan all new clients’ pets so that stolen dogs can be identified
  2. They would like stolen dogs to be given the urgent and respected attention by the Gardai as stolen property rather than dismissed as just “lost dogs” which can sometimes be the case

Dog stolen from Dublin area last week

A female fawn Great Dane aged about 3 years, was STOLEN  on 1st April. See photo below:

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