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Be on guard to protect your pets
as thefts are on the increase

Pet theft is on the increase, particularly around Christmas time, according to Sainsbury's Bank. Each year, around one in every 233 dogs in the UK is stolen - that's some 25,650 in total - and some areas of the country have reported up to a 40 per cent increase in the number of pet theft cases over the last two years. Cat theft is much rarer, but around 6,000 are still stolen every year.

Over a 12 month period, around 135,000 dogs go missing. Many are reported to the Missing Pets Bureau, which estimates that dog thefts account for around 38% of their cases. Cats on the other hand are more at risk from being run over than from theft, but still, of the 165,000 cats which are reported missing each year, 3.6% of these (6,000) are thought to be thefts.

Robert O'May, Insurance Manager at Sainsbury's Bank said: "Finding out your dog or cat has been stolen or is lost can be a traumatic event. In light of this, our pet insurance customers can now obtain free help and advice from the Missing Pets Bureau. This operates the national Missing Pets Register which has a database and works closely with more than 10,000 rescue centres, police stations, dog wardens, vets and major animal charities."

Thefts of pets are for a variety of reasons. Many are opportunist, but some are cases of dogs being stolen to order - rare breeds and gundogs tend to be particularly at risk. Other thefts are much more sinister and harrowing: some are kidnappings with ransoms of hundreds or thousands of pounds demanded from owners. Indeed, one owner paid £2,000 to have her prized pedigree dog returned and a further £300 to a go between. In other cases, dogs can be stolen for their skins or dog fighting.

According to the Missing Pet Bureau, those breeds of dogs most at risk of being stolen are:

- English Springer Spaniels
- Border Terriers
- Boxers
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Labrador Retrievers

In addition to the new help for owners of missing pets through the link to the Missing Pet Bureau, Sainsbury's Bank's pet insurance policy already includes up to £500 towards advertising a missing pet and offering a reward, as well as access to 'Careline,' which customers can call for any non-medical advice, including ways of protecting your pet from thieves.

Robert O'May, said: "Losing a pet can be really upsetting and sadly many thousands of people every year go through the experience. Pet insurance isn't just about covering the costs of vet's fees for your cat or dog - we've designed our policy to offer as much help as possible for every aspect of pet health and well-being."

Sainsbury's Bank offers the following tips on pet safety:

- Ensure that your pet wears a collar and pet identification tag such as that supplied by the Missing Pets Bureau

- Keep garden boundaries as secure as possible to prevent your dog from escaping and also to deter thieves from entering

- Always supervise your dog, whether it is in your own garden or in a public area

- Have your pet micro chipped. This takes seconds and is virtually painless. Consult your local Vet for details.