The feeling crept up slowly, not panic or even fear, just a dawning realisation that the dog had gone. She had been there a few minutes ago and I expected her to come back as soon as I called her. She’s a cocker spaniel, so I gave her a second call, and then a third. I cursed at my lack of a whistle and shouted again. But, two hours later I was still looking… she had gone.
It was hard to sleep, not knowing where my wee dog was and what had happened to her. My dog was lost, not stolen. But the clench in the pit of the stomach, the worry and uncertainty are the same. It’s a feeling that more and more people are experiencing now in the UK – with an increase in gundog theft, it’s a booming industry.
Gundogs combine two qualities that thieves love. High value and easy accessibility. Take a moment and ask yourself this question; how difficult would it be for a determined criminal to steal your dog or dogs? Put aside the argument that you live way out in the country, and no-one ever steals anything where you live. What if someone wanted to take your dog? How hard would it actually be for them to do it?
Consider the fact that dog thieves monitor social media for information. They go equipped with grinders and pry bars, and regularly quite simply rip kennels open with cars. Until a year ago it would have been a doddle to steal mine. Simply drive up to my house when no car was parked outside and cut the lock on the kennel. The dogs would probably walk up to you wagging their tails. You could pick them up, stick them in the boot and drive off onto a maze of single-track back roads without looking back.
As my own awareness of dog theft has grown, I’ve made the job much more difficult for thieves. The dogs are indoors now where they can’t be seen and anyone who wants to steal them is going to have to force their way through a sturdy front door, committing the relatively serious crime of breaking and entering. It’s a simple change, but a highly effective one.
You may well be unable to do that, perhaps you have too many dogs or they aren’t house trained or both. But there are still things you can do. The first is the simplest, lock your kennel. Yes, dog thieves have grinders, bars and cars, but anything which makes the crime slower or noisier is a deterrent. Having to cut or break a lock may be the crucial factor which makes the thieves decide not to try.
Consider CCTV. The days when CCTV cameras were great ugly things with grainy footage and tapes that needed constant changing are over. You can fit an excellent CCTV system to your property for far less than it would cost you to replace a dog. CCTV warning signs not only add a deterrent effect, but they also increase the value of footage as evidence.
Obstruct vehicle access. Don’t site a kennel where someone can drive up to it. That is asking for trouble. A heavy locked gate will help a lot, as will bollards or putting the kennel at the end of a path. If you can’t do any of these things, consider parking your own vehicle to block access.
Motion activated lights are another security measure you can relatively easily and cheaply implement, and police officers assure me that they are highly effective.
Any type of truly determined criminal is difficult to stop. People break into things far more secure than the best of kennels and in truth it is almost impossible to make your dogs 100 per cent secure from theft. But you can stop them being the type of ‘low hanging fruit’ that thieves seek.
For me, I was lucky enough to find my dog the next morning. She had found her way out of the thick trees where she had got lost and came sprinting down the track towards me, tail wagging.
Neither of us were any the worse for the experience. Although sadly, for many victims of dog theft, that isn’t how the story ends.
For us now, there are simple and effective things you can do to help reduce the risk of your dog being taken. Unless you can honestly say that it would be difficult to steal your dogs, you should do them – now.
Please note, the images of the dog used in this blog are for illustration purposes only.