For many dog owners, the pandemic has meant more time at home to spend time with their furry friends.
However, studies show that over the course of the pandemic, the demand for dogs during lockdown skyrocketed and has led to a significant rise in dog thefts across the country.
A recent study by Dog Lost shows dog thefts have risen 170% in the UK in the last year, with only 1% of these cases ever going to court.
Currently dog theft is treated as a low-level crime by the police and treated as the equivalent of a stolen mobile phone or inanimate object.
Due to the high demand for dogs, this has become a huge opportunity for criminals looking to make quick money with very little risk by stealing owned pets for breeding.
Simon Powell from Animal Search UK said: “Whether it’s an organised gang or loner with the opportunity to get quick money, by simply stealing a dog and breeding.
“When you breed a dog, it can potentially have a litter of six to eight puppies.”
He believes the most sought-after dogs at the moment are Labradors, Daschunds, Boston Terrier’s and French Bulldogs.
This comes after a couple from Leigh were left heartbroken earlier this month when their seven bulldog puppies were snatched from their home.
The dognappers stole seven of the nine puppies as Tammy McKenna, 36, and her partner Paul slept in the early hours of the morning of February 2.
It was only when they were woken by the police shortly after 2.30am that they realised the litter of seven-week-old puppies had been taken from their home in Shelley Street.
The couple are now offering a £1,000 reward to anyone who can reunite them with their beloved pets.
The Pet Census claims up to 52% of dogs are stolen from owner’s gardens since the start of the first UK lockdown back in March 2020.
The highest value dogs are thought to be due to an increase in celebrity ownership after their service has been busier than ever this past year.
Simon adds: “There has been a huge rise in dog thefts reported to us here at Animal Search UK.
“Demand has skyrocketed because of lockdown, where people now have more time to spend with their new pets and train them.”
The prices of puppies has increased by at least 50% since the start of the pandemic, with many seeking the affection of a canine companion as 23.9 million Brits are working from home during lockdown.
He said: “Daschund and Labrador puppies 12 months ago were priced between £800 and £1,000; today it’s around £3,000.
“That means the earning potential from one litter of six to eight puppies could be anywhere between £15,000 and £20,000.
“Some even steal the dog with the intention to bring the dog back in return for a cash reward, as usually the owners are so upset and relieved to have their pet back that they hand them the money, and the police don’t usually get involved.
“Therefore, there is no proof.”
The Pet Census has issued some advice for dog owners to help prevent further dog thefts in the UK:
- Secure your garden – with so many pets being taken from their gardens make sure that all fences and yards are properly secured to prevent thieves from easily attacking your property.
- Change your walking routine – many thieves will target local parks and dog walking sites when they expect owners to be exercising their pets. This is a quick and easy way to prevent the loss of your pet.
- Don’t leave your pet in your car – if you need to nip out to the shops, leave your pet at home rather than in your vehicle as this could lead to an impulsive theft.
- Keep your details up to date – owners should make sure that their animals are microchipped and that their details are registered and kept up to date with a microchip database to make it easier to return your pet to you.
- Keep your dog and your property secure – make sure to take preventative measures, including ensuring your home has an alarm system, not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop or public place and making sure you can see your dog when out on walks at night.