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KC casts doubt on dog theft statistics

THE KENNEL Club has hit out at wildly exaggerated statistics relating to dog theft in the UK, many of which have been quoted as hard facts in the wider media.

The KC has been very concerned with the issue of dog theft and hosted a summit meeting at its London Headquarters in conjunction with Dog Theft Action in November 2005. Prior to the summit and since, the KC has attended various meetings to discuss the issue recognising the extremely upsetting consequences for both the dogs and owners involved.

However, having read recent national media coverage concerning dog theft, the Kennel Club has become increasingly concerned with the figures being quoted, as it is the KC’s understanding that no reliable nationwide statistics exist, a fact confirmed by the National Dog Wardens Association, the Police, Local Authorities and various other agencies that it has spoken to.

For example, Sainsburys Bank, which offers pet insurance, recently issued a press release entitled ‘Over 520 Cats And Dogs Stolen Every Day' and went on to reveal that 966,400 people claim that they have had their cats or dogs stolen over the past five years. Having spoken directly to Sainsburys, it however became apparent that only 2,001 people were surveyed, and the figures extrapolated upwards in an attempt to reflect the country as a whole.

Other organisations have claimed that dog theft is ‘the nation’s fastest growing crime’ and that the crime of ‘dognapping’ – where dogs are taken and then a ransom demanded from the distraught owner - has risen by 141% in the last year, with 900 dogs being stolen per week. Further, it has been alleged that stolen pets are sold on for thousands of pounds.

With regard to these statistics and statements, it is the Kennel Club’s opinion that they are not based on fact and in some instances sensationalised for commercial gain and, unfortunately, these actions are helping to ‘fuel the publicity fire’.

The Kennel Club told OUR DOGS that it wishes to state categorically that whilst it is hugely sympathetic to the ‘stolen dog’ issue, it feels that it is important, for the sake of all dogs and owners, to keep the issue in perspective and not exaggerate since by doing so the situation is actually exacerbated – with credence given to the idea that a stolen dog has significant value. Of course a dog does have significant value to its owner – but not beyond that in any significant monetary terms.

Petlog, the UK’s largest pet identification service, operated by the Kennel Club, maintains a national database for microchipped animals, containing over 3 million records - with dogs making up over 60% of the animals on the database. Petlog receives on average 300 calls per month, for missing dogs, to its 24/7 Helpline. These calls are from concerned owners who have either lost their dogs, or believe they may have been stolen.

Pet Plan, one of the countries leading pet insurance companies, has said that claims for stolen dogs remain static at 230 – 250 per year. Also, the Metropolitan Police Service, which deals directly with the stolen dog issue in the London area – importantly an alleged dog theft ‘hot spot’ – has confirmed that just 359 dogs were reported stolen by members of the public last year, and 255 dogs have been reported stolen to date this year.

These confirmed figures are clearly grossly at odds with the other statistics being claimed, therefore, in an attempt to redress the balance, the Kennel Club is now calling on all agencies with an interest in this important welfare issue to contact them with verified statistics and information so that they can begin to compile accurate figures to reflect the true picture.

Caroline Kisko, the Kennel Club Secretary commented: ‘No one can be in any doubt that both the Kennel Club and Petlog take the issue of dog theft very seriously and we are extremely sympathetic to all those who have suffered from this appalling crime. However, some of the statements being made by organisations are inflammatory to say the least and whilst we fully appreciate that not all dogs are microchipped, tattooed or insured – and we would of course recommend that they are – the figures that we have obtained simply do not add up to the others being touted. If one million dogs were stolen over 5 years, against a static canine population of 6.2 million, then that is epidemic proportions and we find it totally irresponsible that exaggerated statements are being made, with no factual basis.

‘These headlines are helping to fuel the media fire and when people go on record – and that information appears nationally – to allege that stolen dogs command resale fees of thousands of pounds, when this is clearly not the case, it gives criminals the idea that large sums of money can be made. They then turn their attentions to dog theft, which of course has implications for the UK dog owning public. When the criminals realise that they cannot make huge profits, what then happens to the once much loved pets?’

Ms Kisko concluded: ‘We are now urging all organisations with an interest to contact us, so that we can stop this scare mongering and paint a true picture. We are not saying that dog theft is not a problem, but what we are saying is ‘don’t believe all the hype’ you read and let’s look at the facts.’

Recommendations from the Kennel Club for dog owners to avoid having their dog stolen include, never leaving your dog unattended in the garden if going out of the house, and never leaving it in your vehicle or tied up in a public place unattended. Ensuring your dog is microchipped and/or tattooed is the most important step dog owners can take to protect their dog if it is lost or stolen, and anyone requiring further information with regards to microchipping should get in touch with Petlog.

The Kennel Club is in the process of getting Parliamentary Questions raised in an attempt to get politicians to consider the matter carefully and assist them with their research. Petlog is also progressing the implementation of a National Stolen Dog Database, which will independently link to all relevant agencies.

Statistically Speaking... Comments on the KC’s statement about Dog Theft statistics:

Simon Westrop of the Missing Pets Bureau said:

‘Dog theft is a serious issue that we deal with on a daily basis at Missing Pets Bureau. We have become a first port of call for many dog owners that have been affected by the crime and offer a free service to help them any way we can. This includes counselling them with advice and helping to publicise their dog’s disappearance as far as possible.

‘So as not to overstate the problem, we only ever report a dog theft as such once we have a crime reference number from the police. This way, we can be sure that every case we deal with is in fact a dog theft, and not simply a dog that has gone missing.

‘Having helped people affected by the problem for many years now, we feel it is important for all dog owners in the UK to be aware of the problem so they can take precautions in good time, and we appreciate the support the media have given us in this respect.’

‘If you would like to speak to victims of dog theft first hand, Missing Pets Bureau would be happy to arrange case studies to illustrate how people have been affected and what advice they would give to fellow dog owners.’

Jayne Hayes, Founder of Doglost UK commented:

‘Doglost is the largest free website for lost and stolen dogs admit theft is on the increase but are becoming increasingly concerned that large money making insurance companies, and missing pet sites that charge, are putting out statistics that need to be challenged. It seems to be a blatant case of panic mongering, designed to scare pet owners into one of their ‘solutions’. Which inevitably, involves the owner parting with their money for false security – you cannot insure against pet theft!

If you go onto the websites concerned – where are all these dogs? Most sites only register one or two dogs a day, but are quoting to the press ridiculous figures.

Doglost only quote what we have on our website after direct contact with the owners. We have an average of 100 missing dog cases per week. Not all will have been stolen, but worryingly 80% of the dogs we locate, are under suspicious circumstances.

‘We also suggest you look in the small print of insurance policies, as most ‘Rewards’ are only paid out if the ‘Finder’ is willing to supply the insurance company with their name and address. Just last night, a lady had to part with £500 in a deserted car park to pay for the release of her dog, that thugs had threatened to kill, if she did not part with the cash. Are they going to leave their address?

‘Doglost had noticed a significant rise in the number of cases being reported to us, and we are please that our awareness campaign, which is all done by volunteers, has reached national level.

But we are disheartened to see these companies jump on the bandwagon, and making a mockery of the situation. Dog theft has to be taken seriously!

‘Doglost.co.uk, a network of dog owners, has helped locate over 2,500 dogs with their owners. This is saving insurance companies £1,000,000’s in policy payouts. They should be sponsoring us, or at the very least liasing with us and the knowledge we have attained, to provide a better service for their customers. Because all the owners want is their dog back. NOT money.’

Margaret Nawrockyi of Dog Theft Action said:

‘Dog Theft Action has been calling for accurate statistics on dog theft for some time. It seems that the figures we constantly hear and read about are collated by many organisations with diverse interests in this issue. DTA has publicly discussed the need for a national database of lost, stolen and found dogs that would draw on information from insurance companies, local authorities, the police, vets, welfare and rescue organisations and victims of dog theft and produce an accurate picture of the situation.

‘DTA believes that there is no place for speculation and embellishment of these figures. Dogs are being stolen on a regular basis – we read heartbreaking accounts of these thefts on a weekly basis in the canine press. Our message to owners is that prevention is always better than cure. We encourage them to heed the warnings of those who find themselves caught up in this dreadful situation.

‘Dog Theft Action has been only too pleased to work closely with the KC on seeking a solution to this on-going problem. The need for a national database was introduced at the DTA Summit; a meeting of representing organisations, charities and individuals that was supported and hosted by the KC in November 2005. We have since discussed the potential for this facility at length at a recent meeting with the executive at the KC and were encouraged by the research that was made available to us. We can only hope that these measures can be put in place very soon.’