Dognapping on the up

Here's how to keep your pets safe

Pet parents are rightly up in arms as a spate of dognapping sweeps the country. With pet theft on the rise, it’s worth taking protective measures so your beloved pooch doesn’t fall victim to unscrupulous criminals with no regard for you or your fur baby’s wellbeing.
That’s the advice of pet insurance specialist PD Insurance (, which has noted a marked rise in dognapping in New Zealand, particularly in parts of Auckland.
Chief Operating Officer Michelle Le Long says, “A clear picture emerges when you look at your community Facebook page or the specific ones set up to help dognapping victims find their pets. Criminals are prowling the streets looking for easy targets. Sometimes they’re after specific breeds, and sometimes they’ll snatch the easiest targets.”
Le Long notes that recent PD Insurance research shows 46% of dog owners and 38% of cat owners are worried their pet may be stolen. It’s not paranoia either, as a recent One News segment shows, with hosts Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells addressing the issue.

Why are dogs targeted?

Some breeds are valuable – for example, a Golden Retriever puppy commands a price tag of up to $4000, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier around $3000 and a Cavalier Spaniel anywhere from $2500 to $3000. While dognappers might nab a pet for themselves to avoid paying for a pup, there is also the possibility they are stealing your dog for resale on the secondary market. This is more often the case with purebred or pedigreed pets.
In more disturbing cases, dogs are stolen for their genes and made to breed in puppy mills. Worst of all, some stolen pets are used for illegal dog fighting, an unsavoury practice that does happen in New Zealand, as noted by the Police Managers Guild Trust.
Whatever the reason behind the crimes, one thing is clear: the criminals aren’t likely to give your beloved pet the care and love they deserve. The problem isn’t a uniquely Kiwi one, either. Dognapping is on the rise in Europe too, with a fascinating (and be warned, disturbing) Vice documentary outlining the motivation, methods and machinations of dog thieves.

Reduce the risk

Dog thefts are occasionally opportunistic – that is, a thief will cruise the streets looking for any available target and pounce – and sometimes planned. In planned thefts, the perpetrators are more likely to seek out specific breeds, potentially ‘stealing to order’ for their likely unaware customers, and might survey your property and dog while planning the heist.
Puppies are more highly valued than older dogs, especially if the thief intends to sell the dog to new owners or keep him or her for themselves.

Top tips for safeguarding your dog

Looking after your dog as you would a child is the best way to avoid becoming a victim. While this isn’t always possible (and almost always is the preferred approach for pet parents in any case), it forms a sound foundation for protecting your pooch.

Specific good practice recommendations include:

  • Keep an eye on pup while at home; if possible, don’t leave them unsupervised outside.
  • When out walking, keep your dog in sight or preferably on a leash.
  • Microchip your dog. (Note thieves can detect and remove microchips, as demonstrated in the Vice However, a chip provides irrefutable evidence of ownership)
  • Train your dog to recall so if you lose sight of them you can call out and expect a quick return. Dogs with good recall are less likely to be stolen.
  • Lock garden gates with a key.
  • Carefully assess pet-sitters, kennels, and doggy daycare centres before using them.
  • Keep dogs indoors where possible, especially at night.

What to do if your dog is stolen

You could do everything right and still become a victim. If your pet is nabbed, there are several actions you can take. The first is making use of those community Facebook or Neighbourly pages and alerting local people not only to the theft of your fur baby, but the fact that dognappers are active in the neighbourhood.
Report the incident to Police on 555, call a journalist at the local newspaper, put up posters, and consider offering a reward (one Auckland dognapping victim put up a $25000 reward for the return of her dogs, making national headlines). Check with neighbours or nearby shops for CCTV or doorbell footage and update your pet’s microchip with ‘missing’ status.

Don’t be part of the problem!

Bear in mind those who steal dogs for resale do so because there are willing buyers. Don’t be part of the problem. When adding a new furry family member, always use a reputable breeder or seller. This does beg the question of ‘how do you know’, but with social media and internet tools, conducting basic research and sourcing referrals and endorsements is strongly advised.

Dog insurance for added peace of mind

As mentioned new pets come at a considerable cost upfront – and then throughout their life. Cover for veterinary tests, treatments, emergency surgeries, medication and more with the right pet insurance plan can save you thousands. The best time to start insurance cover is in the first few weeks, and PD Insurance currently offers three months free for pups and kittens.


Media contact 
Leandri Smith – The Mail Room 
027 365 9003 | [email protected]