Dog theft

A recent spate of dognapping – including pop star Lily Allen’s English bull terrier in 2007 – has left many British dogowners fearing for the safety of their pets. Help keep your dog safe from theft by following the advice below, including how to get extra peace of mind with pet insurance from Direct Line.

Research on dognapping from Direct Line Pet Insurance reveals that almost 1 in 20 dog owners who have lost their pet (four per cent) believe it was stolen and more than a third (39 per cent) say they are worried that their dog will be snatched. This comes following of several high-profile cases of dog theft including Liz Hurley’s puppy, Emily, and Engelbert Humperdick’s German Shepherd, Charnie. Since the report came out, other cases have highlighted the issue, including the theft of pop star Lily Allen’s English bull terrier from the back of a van.

Since the survey was taken, just under half (48 per cent) of those who took part have fitted their dog with a microchip to make sure they can keep track of their movements. Others are taking more traditional precautions, with a quarter of owners (22 per cent) admitting they never let their dog off the lead for fear of them being snatched and 13% never venturing out with their pets after dark. So are these precautions extreme and what is the best way to prevent your canine friend being stolen?

Securing your dog

According to Dog Theft Action, a charity committed to highlighting the issue, helping reunite owners with their pets and lobbying the Government to make dog theft a crime in its own right, the recommended measures are:

  • By law all dogs must wear a collar and ID tag when in a public place. Include your surname, telephone number, address and full postcode – if there's room put 'microchipped' on the tag if your dog has a chip.
  • Ensure that your dog is permanently identified by microchip, tattoo or better still, BOTH.
  • Ask your vet to check your dog's microchip every year and clean tattoos with surgical spirit regularly.
  • Decide who owns the dog(s) in your family. Discuss who will own them after bereavement or the break-up of a relationship. Draw up a formal document and get all parties concerned to sign it.
  • Keep all documentation relating to your dog(s) in a safe place. Include clear photos of front and side profiles of your dog. Make a note of unusual markings.
  • Be cautious when choosing someone who will care for your dog(s) while you are at work, in hospital or on holiday. Be clear about when the dog will be handed over and who will collect it. It might be better to use a registered boarding kennel or professional dog carer with documentation to this effect unless you know someone who is trustworthy that will care for your dog in your absence.
  • Train your dog not to go out of your sight on walks. Use an extending lead if the dog does not comply. Vary your walk times and routes.
  • Beware of strangers – don't give details about your dog. Don't allow strangers to have their photograph taken with your dog.
  • Be cautious when inviting people into your home to view dogs/puppies for sale. Restrict the number of visitors and their access and always have someone with you.
  • NEVER tie up your dog outside a shop!
  • NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car!
  • Fit an alarm/bell to your gate so that you can hear visitors/trespassers enter your property.
  • Ensure your fencing is adequate and check it regularly for wear and tear. It should keep your dog in and trespassers out! Keep your dog in view when it goes out into the garden.

If your dog is stolen

If your dog is stolen, you must report this to your local authority and welfare centres (in Scotland this must be reported to the police), and then contact your local dog warden. There are also groups such as Dog Lost and Animal Search UK that can also help you trace your pet.

On top of automatic cover for vet’s fees, our Advanced and Essential pet insurance policies both offer additional cover for advertising and reward if your pet is stolen, strays or gets lost, up to £1,000 which is inclusive of a reward up to £200. We also offer cover for reimbursement of your dog’s purchase price if you lose your pet through theft, straying or death due to accidental injury, up to a limit of £1,500. In the event of a claim, some terms and conditions apply. If your dog is lost or stolen you must report this to your local authority and welfare centres (in Scotland this must be reported to the police). You can find more details of these in our pet insurance policy documents online.

Avoid leaving your dog open to theft. Make sure it is safe and fully protected by following our security guidelines and investing in pet insurance from Direct Line, for assistance should the worst happen. Apply for a quote and buy online today and we’ll give you an instant discount.