purebreds like this Dachshund are more likely to be stolen by dog theft syndicates

Stolen Dogs Are On the Rise in NZ. Here’s Why


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The number of stolen dogs in New Zealand is reported to be on the rise. This is partly due to the pandemic.

Pet theft wasn’t always such a major concern. But the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have exacerbated the situation. This is partly because people want a companion more than ever. And also partly because economic instability and high unemployment have forced people to turn to desperate measures to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, this combined with the increased ability to do almost everything online and remotely has created a thriving black market for stolen dogs.

Read on for tips on avoiding having your dog stolen. We’ve also included information on dog theft in general as well as what to do if your dog gets stolen.

What dogs get stolen, and why?

There’s no doubt that some dogs are more likely to be stolen than others. This makes sense when you consider these dogs are generally destined to be sold for big dollars or kept for breeding in puppy mills.

The dogs that are most likely to be profitable are purebred dogs or hybrid dog breeds. On rare occasions, stolen dogs might also be kept just as pets. In that case, it’s probably just down to the thief’s individual preference.

In other cases, stolen dogs are used for illegal dog fighting. When this is the reason behind dog theft, the stolen dogs are more likely to be “bully breeds” like Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, and Pitbulls, for example.

Behavioural and physical problems with stolen dogs

Stolen dogs are sometimes (albeit not always) kept in less-than-ideal situations. This can include unhygienic and cramped kennelling or cages, lack of food or water, and negligence or abuse.

In the long term, this can cause trauma and separation anxiety in pets as well as aggression, fear, and resource guarding, to name but a few issues. Malnutrition and lack of space and exercise can also cause physical problems such as skin and coat disorders, and crooked legs or other musculoskeletal problems.

Breeding these dogs is then more likely to result in hereditary conditions being passed from parent to puppy. A reputable breeder will avoid this through health screening to avoid genetic conditions like hip dysplasia in dogs. While on the other hand dog theft syndicates aren’t likely to.

Not to mention there’s the devastation that the stolen dog’s human family goes through. And the pain and trauma a stolen dog will experience from being apart from their people.

How are dogs stolen?

Camera sightings of dog thieves show some working in pairs or teams, with others flying solo. In teams, one person might distract the owner while another takes the dogs.

And as scary as it sounds, some stolen dogs are simply taken from their own homes or gardens. Much the same way someone would steal a handbag or car. Some dogs are even stolen while they’re out and about with their owner (one great reason to always keep pup on a lead – read more reasons on our Lead the Way program page)

To give you an example, here are some incidents from New Zealand media:

Dogs face many strange and varied threats in today’s world. While theft is one of them, another you may have heard of is the Yulin dog meat festival.

Dog theft syndicates

Vice Media tracked down some dog theft syndicates based in the UK. In an interview they ask thieves how they steal dogs and what happens to these poor pets.

Dog theft syndicates tend to follow a similar modus operandi no matter where they’re based, so although not recorded in New Zealand, the below video could be of interest to Kiwis.

Please note the video contains strong language:

How to keep your dog safe from theft

In the video above dog thieves speak candidly about how they operate. As pet owners we can use this information to our benefit. How? Simply by knowing what to avoid.

Read these tips to prevent your dogs from being stolen:

  1. Always keep an eye on your dog and don’t leave them unsupervised.
  2. Walk your dog on a leash when you’re out and about.
  3. Get a dog microchip as soon as you buy or adopt a dog.
  4. Teach your dog to recall. Chances are your dog doesn’t realise the friendly stranger with a dog biscuit is a thief. So if you don’t see your dog, call them immediately. Dogs with good recall are less likely to be stolen.
  5. Keep your garden gates locked.
  6. Vet petsitters, kennels, and doggy daycare centres very carefully.
  7. Make sure your dog sleeps inside at night.

Other things to remember

Besides proactively preventing dog theft, there’s more you can do to stop the vicious cycle. For example, don’t buy a puppy online and make sure to buy from a reputable breeder. That way you’re less likely to inadvertently support dog theft crimes.

Of course, knowing who’s selling stolen dogs and who’s genuine isn’t always straightforward. But with a bit of research, you should be able to find reputable sellers. Here are some resources to help you find ethical breeders in New Zealand:

What to do if someone steals your pup

Want some tips on what to do if your doggo is stolen? There are several steps you can take including informing neighbours, putting up posters, logging the incident online via community groups, telling police and offering a reward for information and return.

Check the detailed list of steps to take in our article ‘Someone stole my dog or cat: What do I do?’

Dog insurance for added peace of mind

Pet insurance offers financial protection for unanticipated medical tests and treatments, non-routine vet visits and more. Your dog deserves to have its furry toosh well covered. Not to mention that you deserve the peace of mind this safety measure gives.

The sooner you get a pet plan the better because when your pet is young and healthy they get a much broader range of cover. This naturally carries over to when they’re older. But, if you wait until they develop condition to get your plan, those conditions won’t be covered.

Go on, click below to get your pet plan today.

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