If you’re planning to welcome a dog into your family, first be sure the pup isn’t already part of someone else’s. New research suggests UK dog thefts have increased by 6.8% in just 12 months, with criminals targeting pedigrees worth as much as £1,000.
The figures, analysed by Direct Line Pet Insurance and based on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to police forces, show 1,909 dogs were stolen from their owners in 2007, with the Metropolitan Police recording the highest number of abductions, at 225.
French bulldogs, Staffordshire bull terriers, chihuahuas and huskies remain among the most commonly stolen breeds, which are then resold for a profit to often unsuspecting buyers. The illegal practice can be traumatic for both the dogs and their owners, so here’s how to avoid being part of the problem.
Becky Thwaites, head of public affairs at animal rescue charity Blue Cross, says she would always recommend getting a dog from a reputable rescue centre. “Not only would you be helping the thousands of dogs desperate for a loving home, but their background and microchip details will have been checked,” she tells HuffPost UK.
However, if you’re determined to buy a dog from an individual or breeder, she says “do your research and never impulse buy after seeing an advert online or a classified ad in the newspaper.”
“Because all dogs must now by law be microchipped before they go to a different home, you must check the paperwork corresponds with the seller’s details and ask to see the vet record of the dog or to speak to the seller’s vet,” she explains. “If the seller isn’t able to provide you with paperwork, or they are reluctant to give detailed information about the background of the dog, then walk away.”
To record these details once supplied, prospective owners can download a “puppy contract” from the RSPA’s website. If a seller is unwilling to sign the contract, this can be another indicator something isn’t right.
If a seller insists on meeting you in a public place, that can also be a red flag, Thwaites adds. Olivia Anderson-Nathan, vet from animal charity The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) agrees.
“The seller may offer to meet you and drop the dog off at a location like a service station to avoid the ‘inconvenience’ of travelling to see them,” she tells HuffPost UK. “This is always suspicious – a reputable dog breeder or genuine seller will want you to meet their dogs before you take them on.”
Both Thwaites and Anderson-Nathan say if you’re purchasing a puppy, you should make sure you see the full litter with their mother and, if possible, their father. However, sellers sometimes place a puppy with a fake ‘mother’ of the same breed to mask theft or puppy farming, so this is something extra to look out for. An unrelated dog will likely ignore their supposed offspring.
“The dogs should all be interacting normally, and the mother should be interested in the puppies – doing things such as grooming and feeding them,” Anderson-Nathan explains. “We’d advise visiting the seller more than once, to interact with and get to know the pups.”
If you choose to buy from a breeder, PDSA recommends taking on a dog from a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, who will abide by a set standard giving owners a higher chance of getting a healthy, well adjusted, puppy. If your dog is stolen, you can find advice about what to do next on the Blue Cross website.