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Pet Theft Awareness

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About Pet Theft Awareness

Pet Theft Awareness was formed in February 2013 by Arnot Wilson and Richard Jordan.


  • To educate people on the preventative measures that they can take to avoid their pets from being stolen and to provide them with information to action should they be unfortunate enough to lose their animal.
  • To campaign for tougher penalties to deter pet theft which includes custodial sentences and for police and courts to have tougher and stronger powers to prioritise the theft of pets over the theft of objects.

Research and Reports


Unfortunately accurate statistics are hard to come by because in the eyes of the law a pet, be it a horse or dog, are categorised as chattel. However there are some figures available.

Stats and Data on Cat and Dog Theft

'Pet Theft' is not a specific crime.

This means data from the police is hit-and-miss and depends on the constabulary.

Dr Daniel Allen, Adam Peacock (both Keele University) and Jamie Arathoon (University of Glasgow) found there had been an increase in dog theft crimes, with 1,559 in 2015, 1,653 in 2016 (+6.03%), and 1,842 in 2017 (+11.43%).

Why is Police pet theft data not accurate?

  • Not everyone goes to the police.
  • Not everyone can get a crime reference number. (especially true for cat owners)
  • Pet theft does not have its own code.
  • Police forces use different systems to record crimes. (the theft of a litter of puppies might count as one crime).
  • Stolen pets can get lost in the system.

Not all forces provide data in response to FOI requests:

"...Staffordshire Police are now using a new system to record crime. Data from the old recording system has been brought over to the new system and although the system has structured property fields only property with identifying marks i.e. serial numbers, registration plates etc., will be recorded under these fields." - Staffordshire police 2021

In 2020 those failing to give Pet Theft Awareness data for the Cat Theft Report 2021 were:

  • Hampshire Constabulary (Too costly)
  • North Wales Police (Too costly)
  • Police Scotland (Too costly)
  • Staffordshire (Too costly/new data system)
  • Greater Manchester Police (New data system disabling data retrieval)

Why is Dog Theft increasing?

Increase in dog theft after 2013 could be attributed to the introduction of The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. Govt figures recorded incidents 2012-13=62,000! AND massive drop 2015-16 to 16,000!

There is evidence that gangs found stealing dogs moved away from stealing metal after 2013. During Lockdown (The Economist) some breeds have trebled in price due to the demand. Pet theft is a low risk, high reward crime.

The number of stolen dogs (with a Crime Reference Number) registered on the DogLost website raised from 172 in 2019 to 465 in 2020 - a 170% increase. data stolen dogs registered on their site.
2018=381 - 2019=403 - 2020=465

Types of dog stolen:

  • 47% of stolen dogs are small or toy
  • 14% described as large or giant
  • 50% puppy or young adults

Dr Louise Grove criminologist Loughborough University. []

Most popular breeds stolen 2017. Police FOI request by The Emporium Insurance


  • 1. Staffordshire Bull Terrier 684 (17% [of pedigrees])
  • 2. Chihuahua 261 (7%)
  • 3. Jack Russell 247 (6%)
  • 4. French Bulldog 171 (4%)
  • 5. Labrador 143 (4%)
  • 6. Pug 123 (3%)
  • 7. Bulldog (English/British) 119 (3%)
  • =7.German Shepherd 119 (3%)
  • 8. Yorkshire terrier 113 (3%)
  • 9. Cocker spaniel 105 (3%)
  • 10 Border collie/collie 102 (3%)

Police FOI request by The Emporium Insurance []

Chances of Return

46% of dogs still missing after 12 months. Source: Dr Louise Grove criminologist Loughborough University. []

Reasons for stealing

Since the introduction of tighter controls on scrap metal dealing, there appears to have been a substantial increase in pet theft. The laws are archaic with regard to pet theft and thieves are finding it a reasonable source of income without little penal consequences.

  • Ransom** – this has been a practice used for many years and there is little evidence that this is wide spread but figures are scant because most deals are done without notifying police.
  • To order* – Some dogs maybe targeted to order particularly were the background of the dog is known. It could also be stolen by the thief for his own use such as in the case of gundogs for poaching.
  • Dog fighting*** – It is alleged that some dogs are taken as bait for dog fighting and Staffords for fighting as well as guarding. This is probably substantiated by the high proportion of Stafford thefts.
  • Selling on* – with the advent of the internet and the free classified advertising websites, it is easy to sell dogs and deliver them to the buyers at car parks or motorway services.
  • Breeding – Breeding bitches can be sold within a community and those that are found can be hundreds of miles away from where their owners live or the thief can breed from the bitch and sell the puppies on himself.

*[] In the last year thefts of gundogs – particularly from kennels – has quadrupled. One Sussex gamekeeper was targeted twice in three days with a total of seven dogs taken. Whilst most are being used or sold on it the UK, it is believed that some are stolen to order and taken to Ireland or Europe. ** [] ***[] *** []

The Punishment for Stealing a Pet

The theft of a dog/pet generally goes to a magistrates court (unless violence used) where the maximum custodial sentence they can administer is 6 months. Crown Courts can sentence up to seven years but the reality is very different.

Here are four slap-on-the-wrist court cases.

  • In June 2018, a gang of four were tried at Lincoln Crown Court for stealing 15 Cavalier King Charles spaniels from a Lincolnshire breeder. Only one of the dogs was later recovered and reunited with its owner, having been thrown from a moving vehicle. All four of the accused pleaded guilty to theft – and the gang members received SUSPENDED sentences of between 12 and 16 months.
  • In December 2018, a dog thief who pleaded guilty at Leicester Magistrates Court to stealing two pugs named Betty and Harry and was ordered to pay £200 compensation, £400 costs and received a drugs rehabilitation order – the stolen dogs remain missing.
  • In February 2019, an Amazon driver who stole miniature schnauzer Wilma when delivering dog food was given a 12-month community order by magistrates in High Wycombe.
  • Pixie, an 11-month-old pug, also went missing while being looked after by a family friend in July 2018, and has not been seen since. In September 2019, the dog thief was ordered to pay a £250 fine at Dundee Sheriff Court.

Results of 2021 PCC Survey

124,729 people responded to the online survey.

Conducted by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne (in partnership with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners) sends a strong message.

Key findings of the survey were:

  • 97% of respondents said dog theft was a serious problem
  • 22% knew someone whose dog had been stolen in the last year
  • 78% of people to whom the question was applicable, said they had grown more fearful of taking their dog for a walk during the day
  • 83% to whom the question was applicable had grown more fearful of taking their dog for a walk at night

View the survey results here

General Articles

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The above facts have been complied by Pet Theft Awareness