Adverts: 0161 709 4576 - Editorial: 0161 709 4571
Mail Order: 0161 709 4578 - Subs: 0161 709 4575 - Webteam: 0161 709 4567
Dog theft – now a major problem


The Saluki ‘Silver’ missing since May 1st.

OWNERS of pedigree dogs across the UK are living in fear of what appears to be an organised crime ring – or individual crime rings – stealing pedigree dogs to order or for ransom.

Although the police forces in various counties treat the thefts as random, isolated incidents, there is nothing random or isolated about the escalating number of thefts. The crime syndicate’s modus operandi is to make careful observations of the dogs they intend to steal – usually from dog owners who breed or exhibit their dogs regularly at shows and who, in many cases, live in isolated homes. Then the gang move in when the owners are not about and steal the dogs they require. The thieves sometimes contact the distraught owners and demand a "ransom" – usually hundreds of pounds – for the dogs’ safe return. Sometimes the thieves are far more blatant and simply approach a dog walker and steal the dog from the owner.

Highlighted

The situation has become worse in recent months and many animal charities and rescue organisations are urging dog owners to be on their guard. The BBC’s Crimewatch programme highlighted dog theft on this week’s edition.

Part of the problem is that police forces are reluctant to list dogs as stolen, preferring to enter all such crimes as merely the dog being ‘lost’ or ‘going missing’. Two years ago, an organised dog-stealing ring was operating in various counties in southern England, with Kent being one of the counties where dog thefts were highest. OUR DOGS spoke to Kent police and asked them how many dog thefts they had listed in their area.

A spokesman for Kent police declined to make an official comment, but said that, having made enquiries at several Kent police stations said: "We do not have a problem with dog thefts in the area and I can find none listed." When challenged about the sheer number of thefts in the past three months, the spokesman repeated, "We do not have a problem that I am aware of." This was a clear example of how one police force chose, for the sake of expediency (and better crime figures) to list the dogs as ‘missing’ rather stolen.

Several instances of dog theft have been traced to travellers, and here again, dog owners face further problems, as police are reluctant to enter traveller’s sites unless they have cast iron evidence of stolen goods being located there. According to some officers, there is very real danger of assault or inflaming tensions by entering such sites.

However, not all police officers are reluctant to investigate canine crime, although the recording of such crimes is very much down to each individual force.

Sgt Eddie McDonald of Northants Police is perhaps more aware than most of his colleagues of the seriousness of dog theft. Eddie is an exhibitor of Rhodesian Ridgebacks, showing under the Anamcara affix.

"When I’ve discussed dog thefts with my colleagues, their initial response is ‘Oh, it’s only a dog’, but I find myself saying to them ‘Well, to you it’s just a dog, but the owner it’s part of the family’ and I explain my feelings for my dogs which are very deep, even though I do have children. I honestly think that a non-dog owner cannot truly understand the depth of feeling a dog owner feels for their pet.

"And of course you can’t just look at it in financial terms, but that is undoubtedly an aspect. If a young bitch is stolen, there’s not only the cost of the dog, there’s the possible future litters and puppy sales to be taken into account, not to mention the potential damage to a winning bloodline. When all’s said and done, looking at it in the most basic of terms, the dog is a valuable piece of property, and for it to be stolen is just as bad as having a car or household items stolen.

"Then there’s ‘dog napping’. In human a kidnapping, there would be the serious offences of Kidnapping itself or Blackmail, requiring the involvement of trained investigators/teams. This is a very nasty crime, equally so when applied to dogs, as the thieves are coercing money from devoted owners."

As to why dogs are being stolen, Eddie believe there are several reasons: "Some people like the idea of owning a pedigree dog and would think nothing of buying one ‘from a bloke in the pub’, even if it hasn’t got papers, simply because most people aren’t aware of how you go about buying a dog. Some are undoubtedly used for hare coursing – usually the Sighthound and Lurcher types. Another recent suggestion is that animals, including dogs, are stolen for vivisection or experimental purposes, where expensive, specially bred, disease-free animals are not required.

Eddie does not believe, however, that many dogs are stolen for use in dog fighting. "I’ve spoken at length to senior investigators in the RSPCA and they share the view that very few dogs are stolen for organised dog fighters to ‘test’ their dogs on. Similarly, they tend not to steal dogs to use in breeding with fighting dogs; they guard their bloodlines as carefully as exhibitors, it would make no sense for them to introduce random bloodlines into their breeding programmes."

Politically, dog theft appears to have little or no standing – certainly not as far as the Government is concerned.

Syndicate

Two years ago, Malcolm Moss, Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire has called for a national campaign to make dog owners aware of the canine crime syndicate and has called on the Government (Home Office) to take action.

"This is a national problem and it needs addressing nationally," said Mr Moss. "From the evidence I have seen, it is an organised crime ring which operates with inside knowledge and steals peoples’ pets."

"The Home Office cannot allow this to go by default and I will be demanding concerted action. If anybody was extorting money from shopkeepers on a national basis in this same manner, then there would be an outcry and action would be taken by the police.

"Dog owners have a right to the same protection of the law as any other taxpaying citizen and I intend once again to make this point very clearly to the Minister and demand that these cases are taken seriously."

Mr Moss wrote to Jim Denham, Minister of State for the Police at the Home Office, expressing his concerns, especially at the lack of interest from police forces around the country. He received no reply until OUR DOGS contacted Mr Denham’s office. The Minister dismissed Mr Moss’s calls for action, preferring to cite the ‘official’ dog theft figures kept by police forces – i.e. few if any.

Eddie McDonald tried to interest the Home Office in an official project investigation dog theft under the Home Office Police Research Award (HOPRA) Scheme. In his application to the Home Office for funding under HOPRA, Eddie drew on figures that he had managed to compile form some policed forces that bother to list dog thefts, whilst also alluding to the wealth of material available via the canine press.

The submission states:

There appears to an increase, over the last few years, in the incidents of dogs being stolen, lost or straying. Very few are recovered.

e.g. In the previous three years, South Yorkshire Police have 110-recorded crimes where dogs have been stolen.

There is an increase each year:

99 – 2000 28 crimes
00 – 2001 33 crimes
01 – 2002 48 crimes

only 20 of these crimes were detected, with only six of those resulting in the return of the dog.

The majority of these thefts are in the location of the family residence (burglary dwelling 27%, and theft from garden 44.5%).

The Project hopes to examine the issue of dog theft, specifically to establish any currant trends, identify what is being done to tackle it and to offer practical solutions to individuals, the Police and other agencies, thereby improving crime prevention and detection.

Sadly, the Home Office turned Eddie’s application down, although he is not content to let matters rest there and hopes to produce a comprehensive report ‘privately’ in conjunction with charities, the Kennel Club and other official bodies.

In the meantime, dog owners are urged to take sensible precautions to prevent dog theft, by having their pets microchipped or tattoos – the latter of course being visible and a serious deterrent to thieves attempting to ’fence’ a stolen dog, not leaving dogs alone in gardens or outside shops and being wary of strangers calling or coming up to them to express an interest in their dog

Up to 80% of exhibitors at dog shows have now taken advantage of a recent KC ruling which prevents them from having their address and telephone number details listed in show catalogues, making it more difficult for thieves to track the owners down with a view to stealing their dogs.

List of organisations to help in the case of dog theft

Doglost.co.uk - an internet based dog registration scheme, actively helps find dogs as well as providing info on missing dogs in all areas. It operates a website but can be contacted by phone. For a £36 fee it will create a missing poster showing a photo of the dog and distribute it to all vets, pet shops, dog wardens and rescue centres within a 30-mile radius of your home. It was featured on Radio 4's Today programme on 16th Nov 2002 and on BBC 1's Inside out on 10th Feb this Year. Tel: 01909 733366 or www.doglost.co uk

Lostpets is free and lists lost and found pets across England, Wales and Scotland www.lostpets.co.uk

LostDogs UK is a website which lists lost or stolen dogs in the UK and Eire. It is free and displays the dog's description, last known whereabouts and who to contact if you have any info.

Petsearch(UK) is free and collates and reports lost or found animals and displays the most recently lost or found animal first. www.Petsearch(UK)

PetBack Central is a 24 hour hot line launched in 2003 by the Missing Pets Bureau. For immediate assistance phone 0870 1 999 999. Claims to work with 10,000 pet care organisations and provides two other services to owners: free one year optional lifetime protection for a pet which includes a pet ID tag linked to a 24 hour lost and found service, and free microchip registration. It transfers details of missing pets into a missing pets register which links to the RSPCA, Battersea etc.

Owners can also choose PetBack Notify, which sends details of missing dogs on a highly targeted basis to vets, rescue centres, dog warden and police stations in the area where the pet went missing. Tel: 08701 6000999

Lurcher Search "An organisation whose aim is to reunite lost and stolen Lurchers and Running Dogs with their owners. Operates through a network of countrywide volunteers who receive information about lost and stolen dogs and then circulate these details to rescue centres, dog wardens, police etc. In this way, there is a better chance that a lost dog will be recovered. http://www.lurcher.org/lsuk/



Meanwhile, dog thefts are on the increase, with thieves adopting ever more audacious methods of seizing dogs. On April 1st, a 36 year-old woman had been walking her pedigree Bulldog in Peartree Park, Stevenage, Herts. at about 12 noon when the two men approached her and tried to grab the dog. When the woman resisted, one of the thieves drew a knife and slashed her across the stomach before running off empty handed.

She was taken to Lister Hospital, where she was treated for her injuries and released later the same evening. The dog was unhurt.

Detective Sergeant Paul Brogden of Hertfordshire Police said: "This was a terrifying ordeal for the woman and a very serious incident, I would ask anyone who was in the area at the time of the offence to contact me urgently. These types of offences are extremely rare but people who own pedigree dogs are reminded to be vigilant."

Both attackers are described as being unkempt in appearance, white, with Irish accents. They are both around 40 years old and around 5 foot 10 inches tall.



Saluki stolen in front of owner

A Silver Saluki was stolen from its owner’s garden by three men who made a quick getaway before the owner could give chase.

The ten-month-old dog named ‘Silver’ was stolen from the home of Libby and David Mander on 1st May.

On the evening in question, the Manders had been in their garden photographing their young Salukis – including Silver – for a potential purchaser.

They put dogs into the garden then came into the house for supper. Alerted by the sound of barking, David went to investigate and found 3 men walking up drive. The men stopped at the five bar gate halfway down the drive. They asked David for directions to main A45 road, which David did not consider unusual, as people were often getting lost en route to the A45.

The older of the men spoke with an Irish accent and had a distinctive S-shaped scar on his face. He was of average build around 5’9" with dark, short, brown curly hair. 30s. The other men were younger and stockier, casually dressed but not scruffy.

David gave them directions, at which point one of them asked if he could call them a taxi. David refused, as he was suspicious of the men and advised them that there was a call box nearby in the village. The men left and David walked back towards the house, the dogs following.

Suddenly, the dogs started barking again, at which point Libby saw the men coming back down the drive

One of the younger men leaned over the gate and grabbed Silver, who was jumping, and ran off with him. David ran after them and heard the slamming of doors, round the bend in the drive then a black ‘Golf-type’ car screeched away, with the men and Silver inside, the car having obviously been concealed. David gave chase in his car, but could not find them. As several main motorways converge on the A45, the car could have gone in any direction.

Libby Mander told OUR DOGS: "The Saluki Club has been very supportive, as have the RSPCA and Lurcher Search. Our Local police were very good and investigated the theft carefully and logged it as a theft. We’ve put up posters, all police stations have been notified and the theft was covered on BBC Midlands Today."

The couple are anxious to trace Silver, who is a very distinctive Silver Grizzle dog. He is tattooed – Tattoo Number M7A0153.

If you have information regarding Silver’s theft, please contact Libby and David on: 01676-522362. Or call PC 454 Paula Dunphy on: 01675-464444 ext 3520

l With thanks to Helen Graham for the above listings compiled by her.