Dog Theft Action [DTA] was recently fortunate enough to be given a stand at Crufts 2006 by the Kennel Club [KC]. We spent an action packed four days describing our initiatives and asking for public and corporate support for our zero tolerance stance on dog theft. We were delighted to welcome old and new friends alike to our stand in Hall 2 where several visitors described their experiences of dog theft to us in graphic detail.
Personally speaking having a dog stolen is something that you never get over. I don’t have a good memory but I remember everything that happened on the day my dog was taken from our home in North Lincolnshire. Crufts brought it flooding back in glorious Technicolor and I had several emotional ‘moments’. 9th March – the first day of Crufts was the third anniversary of my dog’s ‘disappearance’.
I shared these feelings of anguish with Niki and Antony Barlow from Tamworth in Staffordshire. They told me about Alfie, their red and white bull terrier who was stolen during a burglary on Friday 5th April 2002. "I knew Alfie had been stolen," says Niki "because his lead had been removed from the hook on the kitchen door and anyway he could not open the safety gate that kept him in the kitchen while we were at work."
The search was on for Alfie. Niki and Antony spent over £2000 in advertising via local press and media. "Tamworth Police were absolutely fantastic," says Niki. "They couldn’t have been more helpful. They even carried out raids on several houses acting on information received from the public". The police took on board two points: the fact that Alfie was permanently identified and that he had definitely been stolen. For four long years Niki and Antony maintained their search for Alfie – they never gave up on him!
The phone rang at 10.00am on 14th April – Easter Sunday. The caller explained that he was from Stonchurch Rescue and Welfare Society in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. The centre had recently taken in a dog that had been scanned and the Barlows details were revealed by the microchip. Shocked and bewildered Niki and Antony set off for Buckinghamshire – doubts creeping into their minds – was it really Alfie – would someone else claim the dog before they could get there?
On arrival at Stonechurch they were shown a filthy, bedraggled bull terrier. He was happy to see Niki and Antony but there were no frantic signs of recognition. Nikki went to the car, intently watched through the window by the scruffy dog; she found a tennis ball in the boot - Alfie’s Christmas present bought after he was stolen. The dog reacted immediately; back-passing the ball through his hind legs the way he used to. Football was his party trick for which he loved an audience – it really was Alfie!
The Stonechurch staff explained that Alfie had been brought in by a couple who said they found him on the roadside. He had obviously hurt his back and was dirty and thin. They thought he had been used as a guard dog – the hair round his neck was broken as though he had worn a heavy chain or rope. There were no signs of ill-treatment but he obviously hadn’t been cared for.
Back in Tamworth and several baths later, eight year old Alfie is happily reunited with his family. "He gets away with murder." says Niki. "He loves a snooze on the bed or on the sofa but we don’t mind. He’s eating better now and putting a bit of weight on. He has been invited to go back to Stonechurch Rescue and Welfare Centre when they hold their open day later in the summer.
We’ll definitely take him back – if they hadn’t scanned him we would never have seen him again."
Nikki hopes that by telling Alfie’s story, victims of dog theft everywhere will be encouraged not to give up hope and that dog owners in general will be motivated to get their dogs microchipped.
Some friends of the Barlows have already had their dogs microchipped. The Kennel Club are holding National Microchipping Month in June – a good time to chip your dog if you haven’t already done so and if you have, to ask your vet to scan your dog to check that the chip is in place and functioning properly.
Alfie is putting his unpleasant ordeal behind him now and his owners believe he is none the worse for it but without his microchip what would have happened to him? What happens to all those dogs, like mine who have been microchipped, yet were stolen and remain ‘missing’ because no one ever scans them?
This story emphasises the urgent need for some form of permanent identification for all dogs but also for regular and routine scanning of dogs in order to discover their true identity. The mechanisms to reunite this stolen dog with his legal owners worked. The co-operation and co-ordination of all the agencies involved is to be commended.
Dog Theft Action believes that a good place to start would be routine scanning by vets when new dogs are brought in for routine treatment. This simple procedure might reveal the identity of any number of dogs that are desperately missed. DTA are delighted to have been invited to share this wonderful piece of news and we wish Alfie a long, happy and safe life.
l Details of KC National Microchipping Month can be found on www.the-kennel-club.org.uk
Dog Theft Action: www.dogtheftaction.com