Pet Theft On The Rise In The UK With Many Calling For Legal Change

Pets are family, but laws classify them as stolen goods, with lax punishment for thieves

By Justyne Yuen-Lee

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Losing a pet would be devastating – learn how to reduce the chances.


Almost half of UK households are homes to precious family dogs and each of these dogs is a potential victim of canine theft. Blue Cross pet charity made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the UK police to show citizens that dog-theft has been on the rise for four years. From 1491 dogs stolen in 2013 to 1774 in 2016, the numbers have many insisting a change in the process of dealing with dog theft is needed. These numbers, although shocking, are only part of the problem; police across the country deal with dog thefts differently, leaving owners in a vulnerable position.

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Laws are in place to help govern society. Rather than treating a missing dog on the same level as a missing person, as most pet owners would prefer, police usually categorize missing pets the same way as stolen property. The criminals who are caught stealing a pet receive a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment – a sentence that is rarely enforced and often replaced with community service, a warning, or a small fine.

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The integral part pets play in our lives calls for a change in laws as they are not property, but sentient beings.


Arnot Wilson, founder of the Dog Union and co-founder of Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance, emphasizes that these out-dated practice do not reflect or meet today’s society and its regards for pets. Dogs are largely viewed as family members, not livestock or property, so why would laws treat them like objects?

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Only 1 in 5 dogs who are stolen every day ever make it back to their families. This means there is only a 20% chance of a reunion, and that relies heavily on social media campaigns rather than police investigation. In England and Wales alone, every week more than 60 dogs are stolen. This disturbing trend translates to a 24% rise in dog thefts over the past three years.

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Avoid leaving your pets unattended!


Dog thieves take dogs from their homes – with over half of dogs stolen from gardens, 19% from burglary, 16% while on a walk, 7% when tied outside shops, and 5% when left alone in vehicles (Pet Theft Census). Thieves take dogs to either sell, breed, for ransom, or bait in illegal dog fighting.

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How To Reduce Dog Theft:

  • Microchip your pet
  • Take clear photographs of your pet to prove ownership if needed
  • Secure property boundaries – lock gates install CCTV cameras and alarms
  • Avoid leaving your dog outside shops alone
  • Always use a leash
  • Avoid leaving your dog unattended in the car 

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We love our pets as members of our family and do not want to even imagine what it would be like to lose them – it is so important to be vigilant about keeping your pet safe!