Pet Theft Awareness Week starts tomorrow, the 14th March in the United Kingdom. Although it is an educational campaign supported and hosted by UK non-profit organisations, pet theft is an issue that affects pet owners across the globe, and hopefully my little blog will help to spread awareness not just throughout the UK, but to animal lovers far and wide.
Important dates this week are:
March 14th: #DogTheftAwarenessDay
March 19th: #StolenHorseDay
March 21st: #MissingCatDay
Who Are “Pet Theft Awareness”?
Pet Theft Awareness was formed in February 2013 by Arnot Wilson, director of The Dog Union, and Richard Jordan, after discovering the increasing numbers and associated statistics of pet theft were on a steep upward incline, and that not a whole lot was being done about it. Pet Theft Awareness is a member of the Stolen & Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA).
The Pet Theft Awareness campaign hopes to prevent pet theft through education and awareness, as well as provide information and resources to support those unfortunate enough to become a victim of Pet Theft. They are actively lobbying parliament to reclassify pet theft and increase penalties and sentences. Although active throughout the year, Pet Theft Awareness Week highlights this brilliant cause, with a huge presence on Social Media encouraging the public to get involved. This year, Pet Theft Awareness Week gives you more opportunity to help than ever before, as UK parliament is petitioned to change the law relating to pet theft, and making our MPs stand up and take notice of the fact that our pets are not ‘chattels’, they are beloved family members!
Following on from the late Bruce Forsythe’s “Vets Get Scanning” appeal, Pet Theft Awareness’ third aim is to continue the good work by pushing for compulsory microchip scanning and a unification of scanning databases, to increase the number of happy reunited stolen pets and pet parents.
So Where Do All The Stolen Pets go?
With over 5000 dogs being reported stolen every year, and who knows how many more going unreported, one has to wonder where all these dogs go… not to mention the cats, horses and other stolen pets.
Sadly, many dogs, in particular the Staffys, are stolen to enter illegal dog fighting rings (don’t get me started on these!), while other become tortured breeding machines on dodgy puppy farms, or are held specifically to collect ransoms from desperate pet owners. Pedigree dogs, cats, horses and rare pet types are simply sold or exported for profit, at times, having been placed ‘on order’….
I don’t need to convince you that Pet Theft is a horrific crime for both the pet and their owner, and this week is the week that YOU can do something about it.
I want to help! How can I get involved?
1. Read the label – BE AWARE
The most important thing you can do to help, is to be aware! Be aware of your own pet, and it’s surroundings. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of your pet becoming a victim of pet theft:
- Secure your garden with study fences and locked gates, as this is where over half of stolen pets are taken from. Install security lighting and CCTV if possible, especially if your pet is spending a lot of time in the garden
- Switch up the routine of exercising your dog. Walk different routes and visit different parks, and keep your dog on his leash as much as possible.
- Never leave your dog alone outside a shop or in a vehicle
- Avoid putting your dog’s name on his tag – this way a potential thief cannot call your pooch by name
- Be aware of posting pictures of your pet on social media, and be aware of who can see them – just as you would your children
- If you have puppies that are being viewed, DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THEM. A puppy can be slipped into a coat pocket, easy peasy.
- Don’t buy stolen pets. Make sure the person you are buying your pet from is happy to give you their full details, or even better, adopt from an animal shelter or buy from a registered breeder
- Be aware that the ‘poor stray’ you decided to keep, is pet theft. All strays must be reported and given the opportunity to be scanned for a microchip.
- Ensure your pet is microchipped, and get it checked every time your pet visits the vet to ensure it’s working.
2. Share on Social Media
Follow, share, retweet, like, +1, pin, flip and generally show the love to the following people, groups, pages and hashtags below. Social media is the fastest way to spread the word, so this week, become a pet theft awareness spammer!
3. Sign the Petition
Did you know that in the UK, if your dog or horse or cat gets stolen, the crime falls under the same law as if your fridge or TV was stolen. Owning a pet can decrease anxiety, stress and depression, reduce risk of stroke and heart attack, lower blood pressure and a whole lot more. It’s incredibly heart breaking to know that our beloved pets, these precious creatures that bring so many wonderful benefits into our lives are regarded by the law as simply ‘objects’.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 exists purely to protect our pets against animal cruelty, which indicates the government does recognize that animals have rights, so it seems only right that pet theft should be a law within its own right, and penalties adjusted accordingly. Unfortunately, the emotional distress of a pet parent having had a pet stolen, is not covered by this Act.
The petition is requesting that parliament reclassify the theft of a pet to a specific crime in its own right. The petition outlines how over 60 dogs are stolen every week in England and Wales, with only 5% ever being recovered. These figures do not include horses, birds, cats or any other pet. These numbers could be dramatically reduced, if the Police Force were given adequate training, guidance and tools to investigate and report Pet Theft (as opposed to fridge theft!).
Given that monetary value of a stolen object (like your fridge) relates directly to sentencing, it’s not giving pet owners enormous peace of mind or a sense of justice when the scruffy, lovable Bitzer dog (Bitzer this and Bitzer that), that they adopted from the animal shelter for the cost of a microchip, is stolen. A few hours of community service is almost insulting.
Most pet owners will tell you that their pets are priceless, a family member that one cannot put a price upon! The current laws are no deterrent for Pet thieves, so it’s no wonder that the amount of pets being stolen in the UK is on a steady increase year after year.
Compulsory microchipping in 2016 has been a positive step forward, but sadly, is only useful if the pet is actually placed under a scanner, which is something a pet thief is probably unlikely to do!
Final Words on Pet Theft Awareness Week
Please, head over to SAMPA or the Pet Theft Awareness websites, where there are loads of resources and further information, or if you are anxious to get started, please just click that big green box to sign the petition. Once the petition has 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in Parliament.
You CAN make a difference, and it doesn’t have to cost you a penny, just be aware of your own surroundings, spread the word, and sign the petition! Together we can make those awful rising statistics get lower, and ensure that the *&^$*?<*”£s who think they can get away with stealing our family members, finally get their just desserts!
Dollies get Dealing!!