Original article from Kent Live
Dog thefts across the country and in Kent have seen a sharp rise over the past year.
Charities reported that numbers were up 170 per cent across the country in 2020 compared to the previous year.
Earlier this month a woman from Lydd saw two of her dogs go missing in separate incidents. One was later found in London, highlighting the prevalence and widespread nature of the crime.
In one of those instances, she said a stranger asked to pet the dog before unclipping its collar and running off with the animal.
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An RSPCA spokesperson told KentLive: "It’s really concerning to hear about an apparent rise in stolen dogs.
"Pet theft is a heartbreaking and distressing situation for both pets and their owners.
“As an animal welfare charity the RSPCA doesn’t deal directly with pet theft – leaving criminal matters such as this to the expertise of police – but we believe the rise in dognapping could be as a result of the surging popularity, and value, of certain ‘designer’ breeds and crossbreeds, especially as the demand for dogs has skyrocketed during lockdown."
Dog owners are being advised to take precautionary measures to act against any attempted pet theft.
KentLive spoke to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, who run the Lost Dogs & Cats Line, to help reunite owners with missing pets.
They also detailed what owners can do to keep their dog safe.
1. Avoid leaving your dog unsupervised in public
It may seem an obvious statement, but leaving a dog tied up outside a shop or alone inside your car whilst running an errand may be second nature to some dog owners.
A dog without its owner may present a prime chance for any thieves in the area.
It's best to ensure someone stays with the dog outside or they are left at home for these short trips.
2. Make sure your garden is secure
Letting your dog frolic in the garden is part of every dog owner's daily routine.
Battersea Cats & Dogs Home recommend that when your pet is playing outside, they are kept in sight at all times.
Any gates should also be locked and there should be no gaps in fences or walls.
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3. Vary your walking habits
Avoiding predictability in walking routes is also recommended by the centre.
Owners are advised to try different walks where possible whilst out with their dog.
Walking at different times of the day also helps to reduce predictability that could lead to a planned dog theft.
4. Recall practice
The Cats & Dogs Home also underlined the importance of recall practice.
Training your dog to come back when called is vital in the prevention of dog theft.
For owners unsure whether they will return, it is recommended the pet is kept on a lead, especially in areas the dog may not know very well.
It is a legal requirement in the UK for all dogs eight weeks and over to be microchipped.
They must also be registered on a compliant database.
Dogs can be microchipped for free by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, in Blue Cross centres and by the Dogs Trust.
Your vet or local council may also provide the service, although may charge a fee.
The Dogs & Cats Home reminds pet owners of the importance of keeping those microchip contact details up to date so that if a pet does go missing, it can be traced back to its home.
As well as microchipping, it is a legal requirement for all dogs to wear a collar with an ID tag whilst out in public addresses.
By law, this must require your name and address. Owners may also add their mobile number.
Battersea Cats & Dogs Home advises against putting your dog's name on the collar.
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Most dog owners have plenty of fantastic snaps of their furry friend on their camera roll.
The Cats & Dogs Home reiterates the importance of this, just in case your pet does go missing.
Photos should be up to date and include any identifying features of your dog.