It’s been well documented that in recent years there has been a tremendous rise in the theft of working dog types. We were discussing the subject in the office and someone said to me it’s like these dogs are the new ‘scrap metal’ of a few years ago. We all laughed but the more I thought about the statement the more it made sense.
The website ‘Dog Lost’ reports that there were 3500 thefts of this type of dog in 2012. Criminals who are out to make a lot of money in a quick fashion have traditionally done so though scrap metal theft from any source possible to sell on. It was seen as easy pickings and was very difficult to prove and prosecute, it therefore required a lot of surveillance time which was very costly. The stealing of gun dogs seems to be carried out by such criminals with the same objective in mind; to sell the dogs on for a very high price. However, unlike scrap metal, dogs hold more than just financial value to their owners, meaning that families’ lives are being ruined by these thieves.
Working dogs include breeds such as Pointers, Springer and Cocker Spaniels, Labradors, Retrievers and Setters but there are many more. The fact that these dogs are extremely well trained means that they have a high resale value and adults can fetch anywhere between £800 – £2,000.
There are other reasons for why these specific types of dogs are taken. Rather than sell the dogs on, some thieves will capitalise on the emotional value that a dog represents to a family and hold the dog for ransom, asking for well over the financial value. Some thieves that are in the know will specifically target male gun dogs to either sell on as a stud or indeed keep as a stud with a view to breeding, therefore providing themselves with a sustained and continuous profit. Stud fees (paid by the owner of a bitch to the owner of the stud for the right to breed) can cost around £350 at a time and pups can fetch between £400 – £800.
On reading around this subject there was one factor that had seemed to have been missed in all the articles I read. What about poaching? It is known to be on the increase on a large scale and we are not just talking poaching to feed a family but for resale. To do this you would need dogs to pick up the game which may require several dogs meaning the thieves may also be supplying other poachers.
This type of crime is becoming big business to professional criminals who are finding that stealing gun dogs can prove very lucrative. Organised crime gangs are becoming more involved as lack of evidence often means that police rarely follow up reported thefts and treat them as a ‘lost’ dog rather than a stolen dog. With such advanced criminals involved it means that the documents that someone would look for when considering buying a gun dog can be created and provided. Such paperwork includes fake registration and pedigree documentation that will prove to a potential buyer that a dog is the ‘real deal’, when in fact the paperwork is actually forged.
There seems to be a pattern emerging regarding these thefts in that most of the dogs are being stolen from rural areas. This is because owners of working dogs in rural areas will have them sleep outside in kennels, thus providing ample opportunities for thieves with vans to steal them during the night. It is important to make sure that the runs are as close to the house as possible with the bolts and locks of the kennels being on the inside. To try and add extra protection against thieves you can install CCTV to keep an eye on the kennels at all times. Also think about investing in anything that makes a noise as thieves fear noise the most; such things can include loud bells and chimes to attach to gates and kennel doors, the sound of these could potentially stop a thief in their tracks. For extra vigilance try to be as attentive to your dogs’ barks as possible; if during the night they bark enough to wake you then go out and see why. If all seems well try not to switch off and if you are awoken again in the same night then go and see what is spooking your dogs.
If you are a breeder of working dogs yourself then don’t give out your address to anyone who contacts you as a potential buyer until you have all of their details including their address, home/landline phone number, vehicle registration number and identification such as a passport or driving licence. That way you can be sure to protect your home and dogs from potential thieves.
A worry that I have regarding this topic is the saturation of social networks and other outlets when it comes to information for finding a stolen dog. There are so many people that want to help that sometimes there is too much information on sites and this can distract from the accurate descriptions, sighting or licence plate numbers that are available. Maybe there should be a hub dedicated purely to stolen rather than lost dogs. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on how to improve the systems we currently have in place to find stolen dogs and the criminals who commit the thefts?