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Pet owners urged to be on their guard as dog thefts jump

John Fitzsimons
Written By:
John Fitzsimons

Almost 2,500 dogs were reported as stolen to police forces across the UK last year, new analysis from Direct Line Pet Insurance has found.

That’s a jump of 19% on the 2019 figures, and is the equivalent of seven dogs being reported stolen each and every day.

This isn’t a one-off rise either, with Direct Line finding that dog thefts have grown by almost a third in the last five years.

What dogs are being targeted?

Direct Line has broken down the breeds of dog most likely to be targeted by thieves. Staffordshire Bull Terriers were the most likely to be stolen, with 97 dogs taken by thieves over the year. It accounts for more than a fifth of all stolen dogs.

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Here is how the top five shape up:

Breed Number stolen in 2020 Proportion of all stolen dogs
Staffordshire Bull Terriers 97 21%
Crossbreeds 52 11%
Cocker Spaniel 34 7%
Bulldog 27 6%
Labrador 26 6%

There appear to be trends behind which dogs are targeted. Direct Line noted that labradors did not feature in the top 10 in 2019, but have now jumped to fifth place, which it suggested may be at least partly down to their popularity among celebrity owners.

By contrast, Chihuahuas have dropped sharply since last year, as have French Bulldogs.

Has the pandemic made a difference?

Direct Line suggested that the pandemic has had an impact on dog thefts, thanks to ownership soaring since lockdown began in March 2020.

It cited additional research which had found a whopping 2.2 million people took ownership of a dog in the first six months of the pandemic, perhaps because they had more time to spend at home.

However, Direct Line warned that as restrictions ease and people head back to offices, they need to be vigilant against thieves.

Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance, said that thieves have recognised how valuable some dog breeds can be and see them as a commodity.

She added: “The worry is these numbers will increase even further this year once dogs are left alone more as restrictions ease and we return to a new ‘normal’. Taking simple precautions like not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted, while making sure microchipping contact details are up to date can help identify a dog if it is stolen and handed in.”

Am I covered?

It’s also worth establishing just what cover you have in the event that your pet is stolen through your pet insurance. 

A study last month by GoCompare found that while many policies protect against theft, the payouts on offer are unlikely to actually cover the average cost of a puppy.

It’s also important to shop around for your cover to ensure you get the best possible deal, after pet owners saw a sharp rise in premium costs last year.