New research from Direct Line Pet Insurance reveals that, for the first time since the study began in 2014, there has been a year-on-year fall in the number of dogs reported stolen across England and Wales.
In 2019, an estimated 2,026 dogs were reported as stolen to police forces, a fall of 23 per cent compared to 2018 (2,625).
But despite this good news, on average, six dogs were still reported as stolen every day and for the sixth year in a row, Staffordshire Bull Terriers are the most popular breed of dog to be targeted by thieves, with 89 dogs stolen in 2019.
Crossbreeds remain the second most commonly targeted, although the number stolen in 2019 increased substantially, by 42 per cent. This is perhaps partly due to the popularity and expense of so-called designer dog breeds like Puggles and Schnoodles.
Chihuahuas remained in third place in the table, although with a slight reduction (four per cent) in numbers stolen compared to 2018.
Yorkshire Terriers, which did not make it into the top 10 most commonly stolen breeds in 2018 are now sixth, with triple the number stolen in 2019. This may be partly due to their popularity among well-known celebrities such as Serena Williams, Simon Cowell and Steven Tyler.
Lurchers and Border Collies were also outside the top 10 in 2018 but are both now among the most popular targets for thieves.
Breeds that have fallen in popularity for dog thieves include French Bulldogs, Jack Russell Terriers and Pugs.
Eva Sandstra-Bennett, Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, said:
“It is encouraging to see that the number of dogs stolen has fallen over the last year and, during the current lock down period, we expect this to drop even more. There is a risk, however, that these numbers may start to rise again as Lucy’s Law which came into force in April restricting sale of puppies from third parties, could result in some thieves having to take drastic measures to access certain breeds.
“Dogs are such an important part of our lives, so to have one stolen is like losing a member of the family. We urge dog owners to be extra vigilant while out on their walks or in the car and not leave their beloved pets alone. Simple steps like not tying dogs outside of shops or leaving them in cars can help reduce the likelihood of becoming a target for thieves.”
In more positive news for dog owners, the number of dogs returned to their owners in 2019 increased and means nearly one in five stolen dogs were recovered.
Areas of the UK most at risk from dog thieves, according to police data
London and the South East remained the dog theft hotspots in England and Wales, with the two regions accounting for a third of all reported cases of dog theft last year.
West Yorkshire Police received the second greatest number of reports (167) of stolen dogs in 2019, while Kent saw the third-highest with 100 reports.
Both forces, however, received fewer reports of stolen dogs in 2019 compared to 2018, a reduction of seven per cent and four per cent respectively.
Alongside the Metropolitan Police, the top 10 police forces which saw increases in the number of dogs stolen in 2019 were Leicestershire Constabulary, West Mercia Police, Essex Police and Durham Constabulary.
Dyfed-Powys Police returned the greatest proportion of dogs to their owners last year, reuniting 26 out of 33 dogs with their owners, a success rate of four in five dogs.
Eva Sandstra-Bennett, Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, continued:
“It is great to see that the number of dogs returned to their owners is on the rise across the country, giving hope to those who have had their dog stolen. The positive changes in the law in recent years, such as microchipping become a legal obligation, will have contributed to the improvements in reuniting owners with their lost pets and we hope that this continues in the coming years.”
What to do if your dog is stolen
1. Check the local area and your dog’s favourite spots as your dog may have wandered off.
2. Make your dog ‘too hot to handle’ by sharing on social media, putting up posters in the local area and informing local media – include pictures and any distinctive marks in any appeals, and ask others to spread the word.
3. There are some specific sites set up to help find lost and stolen dogs, like doglost.co.uk.
4. Report your dog as stolen to the police and provide them with as much detail as possible.
5. Report your dog as stolen to local pet related services like vets, animal shelters, pet shops, dog wardens and the council. Provide photos, a physical description and the dog’s microchip number
Report your dog to the microchip database.
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Dog theft statistics UK (2019): summary
- Six dogs are stolen every day, according to Direct Line Pet Insurance.
- More dogs are stolen in London and the South East than any other region in England and Wales. Behind London, West Yorkshire is a hot spot for dog thefts in the UK, according to police data.
- Staffordshire Bull Terriers are the most targeted dog breed by dog thieves, followed by cross-breeds and Chihuahuas.
- In 2019, one in five stolen dogs were recovered and reunited with their families. Dyfed-Powys Police in Wales returned the greatest proportion of dogs (four in five) to their owners last year.