Police deny there is local epidemic but say owners should be vigilant
Thefts of dogs have increased. Picture: National Police Chiefs' Council
Police in the area are advising dog owners to take care of their pets when walking them in public but have dismissed concerns of an epidemic of thefts in the Fulham area.
Dog walkers in Fulham parks including Eel Brook Common and Bishops Park have reported what they believed to have been attempted dognappings. While acknowledging this kind of crime is on the increase, the police caution that its prevalence may be overstated.
One local officer told us, “We have definitely seen an increase in reports of this offence. The reason is clear, demand for puppies has increased due to more people wanting a dog during lockdown which has pushed up prices. However, in a lot of cases the ‘kidnap’ turns out simply to be the dog bolting and some of the reported attempts may simply be another member of the public innocently paying too much attention to a pet. In some cases this has caused distress to park users who had no intention of stealing a dog.”
The charity DogLost has seen reports of thefts rise by 170% in the last year from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 in 2020 but the number of cases in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham were among the lowest in the capital.
The police in the borough have issued 13 expert tips to prevent your dog being stolen.
1. Be extra vigilant
A Kennel Club spokesperson said: “Unfortunately the demand for certain breeds has increased considerably, which means that dog theft is on the rise. It is traumatic for any dog owner to have their dog stolen. We recommend being vigilant and taking the basic precautions to help keep dogs safe.”
2. Make sure you dog is microchipped
"Dog owners should make sure that their dogs are microchipped and that their details are registered and kept up-to-date with a microchip database such as Petlog,” says the Kennel Club. This means that, in the worst case scenario, dogs can be easily returned to their owners.
3. Get your dog a GPS tracking collar
A GPS tracking collar means you can locate your dog at all times.
4. Secure your property
Owners should ensure their homes and properties are properly secured. Consider planting raised hedging to make garden areas more private and opt for letting your dog play in the back garden as opposed to the front.
5. Don't tie your dog up outside a shop
The Kennel Club also advises people to follow precautions such as “not leaving their dog tied up outside a shop or other public place, keeping their dog under proper control and making sure they can see their dog when out and about on walks, as well as ensuring their dog is properly trained and will return to them when called.”
6. Don't leave your dog alone in a car
Just as we would avoid leaving any kind of valuable on display in our cars, we should consider our dogs in the same way. It is also unadvisable to leave dogs in cars for health reasons too, especially on warm days.
7. Practice recall and/or use extending lead
Train your dog to return whenever and wherever they are called, in case they run off during a walk and you can't see them. Until their recall is good enough, use an extending lead when on a walk.
8. Report suspicious activities
The Kennel Club spokesperson says: "If dog owners notice any suspicious activities, they should report this to the police."
9. Avoid routine
If you have heard about an increase in dog thefts in your area, it might be a good idea to avoid a routine when walking your dog and use different routes. This is to prevent potential thieves knowing where your dog might be at certain times.
10. Walk with a friend
Buddy up with a friend and walk your dogs together if you are concerned, for safety in numbers. At the moment, you must do so in accordance to the current lockdown restrictions.
11. Avoid location tags on social media
We all love to share pictures of our dogs on social media but this could alert potential thieves to where you live and your dog's routine.
12. If your dog is having puppies...
Puppies are more attractive to thieves because they will not be microchipped, have no pet ID and can fetch a higher price when sold on. Be extra vigilant.
13. If your dog is a pedigree...
You should be particularly careful if your dog is a pedigree as these are most in demand.
What to do if your dog has been stolen
If you are concerned that your dog may have been stolen, report it to the police and give them any details you can about what happened, including the time of day, who you saw, what they were wearing, what vehicle they had etc.
You can also report it to Doglost.co.uk.
You can check if the council has your missing dog via the government website.
If your dog is microchipped, you can also check the database to updates.
If someone claims that they have your dog and can reunite you with it, check that they are legitimate and always meet in a public place. Be wary if they ask for money.
Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said, “Dog theft can be a devastating crime for families and causes considerable distress to owners. Whilst it is still a very rare crime, it’s sadly something we have seen increasing recently.
“During the Coronavirus pandemic criminals have adjusted their activities and are taking advantage of the big demand for pets over the lockdown period. The cost of a puppy has considerably increased over the past year making this a lucrative market for organised criminals to exploit.”
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said, “Losing a much loved family pet can cause great distress and it’s a sad fact that criminals will seek to profit by this vile crime.
“We are taking action to cut crime by bolstering the police with 20,000 extra officers and our £20 million Safer Streets Fund will provide Police and Crime Commissioners with additional cash to spend on crimes such as theft.
“Let me be clear – pet theft is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment and it must be confronted wherever it occurs.”
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March 22, 2021