Protect your pet from theft


Every day, pets are snatched from their homes. Many people still think this is a myth or that ‘my dog won’t let itself be stolen’. Not only is it not a myth and all dogs are targets, it’s growing worldwide – and it is going to get worse. The tougher times become, the more tempting it is for someone to nab an animal that can be used to make money. These animals invariably end up living in shocking circumstances or dying horribly; they’re used for breeding, fighting, abuse videos, security, or taken just because they could be. It is up to you as the owner to keep your pet safe, especially if you own a pedigreed animal of any kind, particularly one of the high-risk breeds*.

It starts at home. The majority of dogs are stolen from their own homes, usually out of the front yard. As much as you want a dog for ‘security’, leaving them unattended where they can be seen from the street is the equivalent of putting a product on a shelf in a supermarket – to someone who’s got theft in mind, you’re basically advertising your pet as there for the taking. Besides, a dog outside is no longer much of a burglary deterrent – it’s actually better to have them inside where they can alert you but not get poisoned or shot. You wouldn’t leave your TV or laptop outside unattended; don’t leave a theft-risk animal outside either.

Here are FAW’s 15 top tips for keeping your pets safe from thieves.

NEVER leave your dog in the yard/garden alone, especially in front and/or when you’ll be out. We cannot emphasise this enough. This is especially important for puppies, kittens, cats, and small breed dogs that are super-easy to snatch and walk away with but even big, fierce-looking dogs are taken. Separate your back and front yards and keep dogs at the back; if this isn’t possible, take your dog to doggy day care or ask a friend or neighbour to look after them, or keep them in the house when you’re out. Cats should be inside when you’re not there. If you keep them in the house when you go out, remember to leave enough water, and a litter box for cats and newspaper/puppy training pads for dogs, and something to keep them occupied. Rather clean up a bit of a mess when you get home than have your pet be stolen. Whatever you have to do to keep them hidden and safe, do it!

STERILISE your pet. Aside from the health and animal welfare reasons, thieves prefer unsterilised animals because they can use them for breeding. If your dog has visible testicles, is in heat, or has just had a litter of pups (their teats can be seen), this tells a thief that they can be bred with. If you’re planning on sterilising and haven’t had a chance yet, be extra careful until it’s done.

Be alert on walks. Be wary of anyone paying too much attention to your dog near your home or when you’re out walking it (including ‘can I take a picture with your dog’). Don’t let them see where you live. If you have to walk around the block a few times to ‘shake them off’, do it. And vary your routes and schedule.

Be aware of ‘watchers’. Dog thieves often employ children or other people down on their luck to walk around neighbourhoods and look for easy-to-steal pets. If you see people walking or driving around taking undue interest in properties and pets, contact your neighbourhood watch immediately.

Be careful taking your pet to dog/cat shows and competitions, and dog parks. If you have a show animal, be very cautious of where you take them and what you say to people. No matter how nice they may seem, they could be trying to ascertain where you stay. And make sure no one follows you home.

Check references. If you need a dog walker, pet sitter, or kenneling facility, be sure to get good references (not just what they provide you).

Stay off social media. Posting your new, expensive puppy online is like advertising. If you’re going to post, make sure there is nothing ANYWHERE online indicating where you live, even just the neighbourhood. It’s easy enough for someone to check your area and then keep an eye out for your pet. And, if your pet ever goes missing and you post this online, do not put your address. If you get them back, people know exactly where you live with that animal.

Hide pet food bags, especially high-quality food. Many people pack their trash into empty pet food bags for garbage day but this signals thieves that you may have an expensive pet on the property that might be worth stealing. In fact, hiding anything dog related is a good idea.

Don’t leave your dog outside shops or in cars – not even for ‘just 5 minutes’. They can easily be snatched by anyone passing by. Aside from the risk of overheating, leaving dogs in cars is risky – many a dog has disappeared after a car was hijacked with the animal still inside.

Don’t let your pet roam. Aside from the risk of being hit by a car, a dog or cat in the street is fair game for any thief.

If you have people you don’t know working on your home, take your pet away for the day. So often we hear ‘the builders/garden service left the gate open and my dog is gone’. Some of these dogs run off and are never seen again (perhaps picked up by someone who kept them), some are actually stolen by those who worked on the home. Leave your dog in the house or take them to a friend or neighbour.

Secure your property in any way possible. Electric fencing, barbed wire, alarms – they’ll help to protect your home AND your pet. Even bells on the garden gate and fencing may act as a deterrent.

Let your dog sleep in the house. Dogs sleeping outside are at much higher risk of theft (and it will be hours before you realise they’re gone and can start searching, by which time they might be over the border). Dogs sleeping inside are also a better burglary deterrent.  

Don’t chain up your dog. Aside from being cruel, not only is your dog useless for protection but it’s basically a ‘sitting duck’ for theft.

Adopt a mixed-breed mutt or moggy instead. All dogs are loving and have their own beauty, and a ‘plain ole pavement special’ is far less likely to be a theft target than a pedigreed pup or kitten.

Microchip and keep good, up-to-date photos of them. If your pet is stolen, you can start searching immediately using those photos. Stolen pets are often recovered through someone seeing a poster or online post and then spotting the animal with the thief. Sometimes dog fight rings are busted or smugglers are stopped with dogs –if your pet is microchipped, you have a chance of being reunited.

The bottom line is this: you are taking on the animal and it’s your duty to keep them safe. The risks are simply too high and the suffering stolen animals can experience too severe.

*High-risk breeds

If you have made the decision to keep one of these animals, you have to be extra careful. If you are not able or willing to put in the effort to keep them safe, it’s best to rather not get one. The penalties to the dog could be horrors beyond imagining.

  • ALL power breeds and mixes thereof including Pit Bull Terriers, English Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Mastiffs, Dogo Argentinos, Boerboels, etc.
  • Small breeds like Yorkies, Dachshunds, Toy poodles, Biewers, Pekingese, etc. as well as smaller, fluffy breeds like Spaniels.
  • Trendy breeds including French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, Corgis, If it’s ‘in fashion’ it’s on the list.
  • Nordics like Huskies and Malamutes.
  • Guard-dog types like Rottweilers, German Shepherd Dogs, Dobermanns, Swiss Shepherds, etc. These have been known to be smuggled across borders into neighbouring countries and used as security dogs.
  • Sighthounds like greyhounds, whippets, lurchers, etc. These are used for hunting or bush racing.
  • Dogs and cats with light-coloured eyes and/or unusual coat colours like Weimaraners, Viszlas, chocolate Labradors, Siamese Cats, etc.
  • Giant breeds like Great Danes.
  • Cats of obvious breeds like Persians, Himalayan, Abyssinians, etc.

ALL animals are fair game to a thief! Just because yours isn’t on this list, doesn’t mean that, if someone can take it, they won’t. Sometimes they’re used as ‘bait’ to train fighting dogs and they don’t have to look special for that to happen.

© Copyright Reserved Jennifer Davies 2021

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