In today’s world, the sad reality is that opportunistic thieves often steal cats and dogs from their own yard. Pet theft is usually motivated by money – from dogfighters seeking bait animals, dealers looking for animals to sell to research laboratories and breeding operations, or individuals just looking to make a quick buck by rehoming your pet for an adoption fee.
Losing a pet under legitimate circumstances is always hard, but the ‘sense of not knowing’ when a pet is stolen is equally heartbreaking for pet parents.
In recognition of Pet Theft Awareness Day we share our top five tips to keep your pets safe and hopefully make it easier to recover them if they are stolen.
1. Keep pets behind closed doors
Cat flaps and doggy doors are great inventions, and they give our cats and dogs unrestricted access to the yard day or night. But, it’s much harder to keep track of your pet when they have such easy access to the outdoors. Cats and dogs who slip over (or under) your fence are at immediate risk if there is someone in the neighbourhood looking to steal pets, they’re also at risk of being hit by a car, fighting with other animals or cruelty from people who just don’t like roaming cats and off-leash dogs.
Pets are always safest behind closed doors where you can keep a close eye on them. We recommend forgoing the pet door and supervising your pets in the yard at all times. To prevent pets accidentally escaping if someone leaves the garden gate open you can install spring latches on gates or padlock them for extra security.
2. Check references of pet professionals
Would you trust your child to a babysitter whose references you hadn’t checked out first? If you’re thinking about hiring a pet sitter, dog walker, trainer, or groomer we recommend conducting a background check first. Ask for references and call them to ask questions, read any online business reviews and see what people are saying about their services. Better still, ask your local vet to recommend a pet professional they know and trust. It’s always best to be safe than sorry when you’re trusting someone else to care for your best friend.
3. Keep a paper trail of documents
You say it’s your cat or dog – but can you prove it? Make sure you have ownership records, adoption papers or veterinary reports for your pets stored somewhere safe, just in case you need these to prove ownership. It’s also a good idea to have photos of your pets available – make sure you’ve captured and noted any unique markings or distinctive features. For example, Charlie has a black pigmentation mark on his rear right paw pad whereas all of his other paw pads are pink.
Microchipping your pet is a legal requirement in many countries, and whilst it may not prevent pet theft it can definitely help in reuniting lost pets and owners. Collars and tags are great, but a microchip is an ID for life. It is injected underneath your pet’s skin, between the shoulders, and contains all of your contact information.
There are also many Lost & Found pet websites available, which allow you to register your pet’s details. This provides additional peace of mind and means your records are only ever a few mouse clicks away if you need to start a search.
4. Don’t leave your pets unattended anywhere
More relevant for dog owners, but those who fall victim to pet theft are often heard afterwards saying things like: ‘I only popped into the shop for a few seconds”, “our back yard is fully fenced’, or “my dog was alone in the car for 2 minutes”.
Pet thieves are clever and they’re quick. It only takes a few seconds for them to successfully lure your dog away with a piece of eye fillet steak, and herd them into a parked car across the road. You wouldn’t leave your child unattended in a public space, and your dog is no different. Never leave your dog tied up outside a shop while you pop inside, or alone in a car – it’s just not safe. And really, is it worth the risk? We don’t think so.
Dogs are often dog-napped when they’re out walking with their owners, or running around at an off-leash park. We had an instance of this only a few months ago in our local park, thankfully the attempt was thwarted by concerned passers-by.
5. Spay or neuter your pets
Especially if you own a purebred cat or dog and don’t intend to breed or show them, spaying or neutering is a smart idea. Spaying and neutering not only prevents unwanted litters of kittens or puppies but also makes your pet less valuable to thieves who would on-sell them for breeding purposes. Desexed pets are also less likely to stray far from home, reducing their risk of being stolen in the first place.
Hopefully these tips have highlighted what steps you can take to keep your pets safe and prevent them from becoming another statistic. Please share your comments below.