Council recommends that dog owners remain vigilant against possible theft of dogs
Derry City and Strabane District Council has noted an increase in the number of reports of dogs going missing/stolen from different parts of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; we therefore advise dog owners to remain vigilant. It seems the increase in dog ownership over lockdowns has also translated to a rise in dog thefts, as thieves know how valuable some of these breeds can be and see them as a commodity rather than a beloved member of the family. It is no doubt heart breaking to lose your family pet, especially if it has been stolen as you don’t likely know what may happen to them. There are however a number of simple things that dog owners can do to reduce this from happening and to increase the chances of being reunited with their dog.
Microchip and licence your dog: Microchipping is a simple, safe modern identification method which is permanent and can't be removed, so even if someone steals your dog we can still trace it by its microchip. Licensing your dog is not only a legal requirement but also ensures that Council dog wardens can quickly reunite dog owners with their beloved pets should they pick them up. This database can be used as evidence to prove ownership of your dog should someone else claim that it is theirs.
Collars and tags/discs: Your dog must have a collar with an identity tag/disc attached to it; which states the owner’s name, address and contact telephone number. Ideally also state on the tag that the dog is microchipped. Do not put your dog’s name on the tag, as someone trying to steal could try to call its name to get it to come over.
Keep an eye on your dog: The most important thing to do is keep an eye on your dog at all times especially when you are out in public. Take the time to train your dog to come back to you on command. This will help if you need to get them to come back to you quickly, if you think they are in danger. It also means they are less likely to run off on walks and in public places. If your dog can’t be off a lead then don’t risk it.
Keep your dog on your property when you are at home and never let it wander around the neighbourhood i.e. stray.
Keep your dog in a secure area: Only leave your dog in your garden or backyard if it is secure. It’s worth checking fences for gaps and ensuring that gates are kept closed; even putting a lock on your gate if deemed appropriate. This will prevent your dog from being able to escape and also prevent anyone easily accessing your garden or back yard.
Be wary of strangers: Be wary of anyone who comes to your front door, or admires your dog in the park. While it’s nice to receive compliments about your dog from strangers, you should be cautious if they start asking for personal information. Do not let them hold your dog or take photos with them, it could just be a way of distracting you.
Don’t leave your dog outside shops: Some dog owners occasionally tie their dog outside a shop. Due to the increase in dog theft, it’s probably best to refrain from doing it. If you have to walk to the shops with your dog take someone with you to be outside with them.
Spay or Neuter your dog will deter some people from stealing your dog as they will be unable to use it for breeding purposes
Don’t leave your dog in your car: If you leave your dog in your car with the windows down then they are potentially a sitting target to thieves. They can easily force open windows or reach in and grab your dog, it only takes a few seconds. This theft is fairly rare and one has to balance the importance of ventilation during warmer weather when dogs ideally should only be left in cars for a very short time period.
Report Any Incidents – Vigilance is the key - if you see any suspicious behaviour or people come up to you and start asking strange questions about your dog, report it. You could prevent an incident from happening in the first place.
If you believe your dog has been stolen - Report the crime to the police and ask for a reference number. Contact your local dog warden service, local animal rehoming charities and use social media to spread awareness to help reunite you with your dog.
Finally, if you are interested in getting a family pet you should avoid buying dogs online through non- reputable sites and gather as much history and information about the dog and seller as possible. One of the main reasons why dog thieves exist is because it is profitable and without proper checks you may be keeping them in business. We would always recommend that you consider getting a dog from an animal rehoming charity; where the primary motivation is to ensure that the dog finds a good home and is not financially driven.