An estimated 2,160 dogs were reported stolen in 2022, the equivalent of six dogs each day, according to new research by Direct Line Pet Insurance. Of those that are stolen, just one in four were returned, with South Wales Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary coming out on top when it comes to reuniting owners with their pups.
- Just one in four stolen pups were found and returned successfully, with South Wales Police the most successful at reuniting dogs with their owners
- American Bulldogs, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and French Bulldogs are the most frequently stolen breeds
- Overall, dog theft numbers have fallen by 22 per cent year-on-year as stretched finances and changes to post-pandemic working patterns see demand for dogs fall
- London is the dog theft capital, with the Metropolitan Police reporting 396 dogs stolen in 2022, followed by Kent Police (177) and West Yorkshire (130)
American Bulldogs were the most stolen breed in 2022, with the number more than quadrupling compared to the year before (up 350 per cent). Staffordshire Bull Terriers and French Bulldogs were also popular targets for dognappers, with the former seeing a 610 per cent year on year increase. French Bulldogs saw thefts rise by 31 per cent compared to the prior year.
The number of dogs stolen overall in 2022 has decreased by 22 per cent compared to 2,760 dogs in 2021, suggesting that changes to post-pandemic working patterns and a tightening of average household incomes may have reduced overall demand for dogs. The drop in demand is further evidenced by an increase in the number of dogs being rehomed. Between 1 January and 31 October 2022, Dogs Trust saw a 50 per cent increase in inquiries regarding dog rehoming compared to the same period in 2021.
Beverley Cuddy, publisher of Dogs Monthly, patron of Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance, and founder of the Bark Angel, comments, “Although reported dog theft numbers may be going down to pre-pandemic levels, the reality is that a significant number of cases still go unreported. Coupled with the rise in people using dog walkers, multiple dogs could be stolen at one time. Only one crime reference number is assigned when this happens, so we believe the scale of the problem is likely to be much bigger.”
Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2023
Regional police force data
With 396 dog thefts reported by the Metropolitan Police in 2022, London is once again the dog theft capital, having topped the list since Direct Line began analysing theft rates in 2015. Kent Police saw the second largest number of reported thefts, recording 177 dogs stolen in 2022, while West Yorkshire saw the third largest, receiving reports of about 130 dogs stolen in 2022. West Midlands and Lancashire Constabulary received 125 and 103 respectively.
Over the past eight years, Leicestershire Constabulary has seen the biggest increase in thefts, with 75 stolen in 2022 compared to 24 in 2015. Dog thefts have also risen significantly in the West Midlands, and Devon and Cornwall.
Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance comments, “We remain a nation of dog lovers. As more than a third (34 per cent) of UK households own a dog, the opportunity for thieves is high, with six dogs stolen each day in 2022. Whilst there has been a decrease in the number of dogs stolen, animal shelters have seen a sharp rise in the number of pets being rehomed. This is likely to be a sign that households are struggling with the cost of living or that they can no longer give their pet the attention they need due to a change in their working patterns.
“Taking precautions such as not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop, in an empty vehicle or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted by thieves. It’s also vital to make sure your dog is microchipped and that your contact details are up to date. This can help identify your dog if it does go missing and is found.”
Steps to follow if your dog has been stolen:
- Firstly, check the local area and your dog’s favourite spots in case the dog has wandered off
- Engage the local community and make your dog ‘too hot to handle’ by sharing with local groups, putting up posters, informing local media and using social media – include pictures and any distinctive markings
- There are some specific sites set up to help find lost and stolen dogs, like doglost.co.uk
- Report your dog as stolen to the police and provide them with as much detail as possible
- 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 dogs microchip number
- Report your dog to the microchip database and make sure your contact details are up to date