The number of dogs stolen in the UK has reached a seven-year peak, reveals new research from Direct Line Pet Insurance. In 2021, the number of dogs stolen rose by 13 per cent across the UK to 2,760, the highest levels since Direct Line started analysing theft rates in 2015.
This means 53 dogs were stolen every week last year, nearly eight every day. This is 321 more than in 2020 and 611 more than in 2019, when Direct Line recorded the lowest rate of dog thefts (2,148). Since 2015, the number of dogs reported stolen across the country has risen by 16 per cent.
French Bulldogs were the most stolen breed in 2021 and saw a 29 per cent rise compared to the number stolen in 2020. Jack Russells came in second, with the number stolen last year more than doubling (140 per cent) compared to the year before. Other small dogs, like Chihuahuas and Pugs, were also popular targets.
With 16 million people now owning a dog, 3.8 million of whom took ownership during the pandemic, the opportunities for thieves are more abundant than ever. The past couple of years has also led to a rise in the cost of dogs, making them a more lucrative target for criminals. This is particularly the case for pedigrees like French Bulldogs, the dog most likely to be stolen this year, which can cost upwards of £3,000.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers, which were last year’s most popular target for thieves, saw an 88 per cent reduction in 2021, pushing them down to seventh. Crossbreeds such as Cockerpoos and Puggles have also fallen in popularity, from second in 2020 to 10th in 2021.
Table one: Most stolen dog breeds, 2021
|7||Staffordshire Bull Terrier||85||10||-88%|
Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2022
Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance, said, “It’s devastating to see the number of dogs stolen continues to increase across the country. Unfortunately, the increase in dog ownership since the pandemic began and the subsequent rise in prices of these animals seems to make the crime even more appealing to thieves. The law will soon recognise dogs as members of the family with feelings, not just owned property and we hope that this will deter criminals, especially if they can be punished more severely if prosecuted.
“Anyone considering buying a dog should thoroughly check its provenance and see the dog with its mother, to ensure they’re not buying from a criminal organisation. And taking simple precautions such as not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop, left inside an empty car or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted. It’s also vital to keep microchipping contact details up to date in case your dog does go missing and is handed in.”
Regional police force data
London once again saw the highest number of dog thefts last year of any region and single police force. The Metropolitan Police Service reported 422 incidents and accounted for 15 per cent of all dogs stolen. The Metropolitan Police Service saw reports increase a third (32 per cent) in 2021 compared to 2020, when 318 dogs were reported stolen.
On an individual police force level, West Yorkshire Police came in second, recording 199 reports of stolen dogs in 2021, nearly two thirds (59 per cent) more than in 2020, (125). Kent Police came in third, receiving reports about 182 stolen dogs in 2021, a 54 per cent rise on the number in 2020 (118). Lancashire Constabulary and South Yorkshire Police complete the top five forces for stolen dog reports in 2021, receiving 116 and 100 reports respectively.
Table two: Top 10 police forces for reports of stolen dogs, 2021
|Rank||Police force||2020||2021||y/o/y change (number)||y/o/y change (percentage)|
|1||Metropolitan Police Service||318||422||104||+33%|
|2||West Yorkshire Police||125||199||74||+59%|
|5||South Yorkshire Police||58||100||42||+72%|
Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2022
The police forces which received the fewest number of stolen dog reports in 2021 were Lincolnshire and Surrey Police, with just 10 dogs reported stolen in each constabulary. Leicestershire (11), Suffolk (12) and South Wales (16) also received very few reports of stolen dogs last year.
In more positive news for owners, the number of dogs returned also reached a record high last year, with 617 stolen dogs found and returned. This is a 19 per cent increase compared to 2020, when 519 dogs were returned. Norfolk Constabulary reunited the greatest proportion of dogs with owners, returning 25 out of the 29 reported stolen, an 86 per cent success rate. Dorset Police reunited 14 of 17 dogs (82 per cent) and Derbyshire Constabulary reunited 37 out of 48 (77 per cent).
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 marks
- 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 dog’s microchip number
- Report your dog to the microchip database and make sure your contact details are up to date