A hike in pet thefts seen as puppy demand spikes during lockdown

13th April 2021

Wider media outlets have reported an increase in dog thefts as criminals look to capitalise from the rising demand for pets during lockdown. Estimations indicate there has been a 250 percent rise in pet thefts during the pandemic, driven by the increase value of puppies. Some dog breeds that were selling for £500 before the pandemic are now sold for more than £2,000 

 The scale of the issue: how common are puppy thefts & what’s the penalty for pet thieves 

Thankfully, although on the rise, pet thefts are still rare. In 2020 charity Doglost reported that 465 dogs were stolen, compared to 172 dog thefts recorded in 2019. With a slight increase following the pandemic, North Yorkshire Police recently reported 

  1. Five dog thefts so far in 2021
  2. Ten dog thefts between July & September 2020 which is 0.3% of all reported general theft offences 
  3. 18 dog thefts between March 2019 & February 2020 
  4. 25 dog theft between March 2020 & February 2021 

With the rise in pet thefts during the pandemic, campaigners have been urging MPs to impose tougher penalties on thieves. Pet thefts are currently an offence under the Theft Act 1968, with a maximum penalty of seven years. Because pets are classed as property, those who steal them can be punished in the same way as someone who steals a mobile phone for example. This makes it difficult to identify the exact number of pet thefts, as they are not always separated from other crimes recorded under the Theft Act 

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced a taskforce will be established to help tackle the rapid increase in pet theft. She met with Robert Buckland, the Lord Chancellor and George Eustice, the Environment Secretary last month to discuss how to combat the rising issue.  

Mr Farron, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for the environment, food and rural affairs, said: “Dog theft should be a specific crime, and treated with much more gravity, given that our pets are part of our families.” 

Dog owners are urged to take extra precautions 

There are some simple steps dog owners can take to reduce the chance of their dog being stolen.  

  1. Improve security in gardens and where their pet spends time. Ensure thieves can’t reach into the garden and ensure the dog can’t get out.  
  2. Ensure that their pet is microchipped and the microchip is registered. 
  3. Do not post details of the pet on social media, unless privacy settings are secure and don`t provide information about the pets location. 
  4. Do not leave pets unattended whilst away from home. 

Pet theft insurance: what is typically covered 

Although no amount of financial reimbursement will come close to compensating for the heartbreak of the loss of a pet, the increasing prices of pets, especially puppies, could leave owners seriously out of pocket. However, owners with insurance can often recover some of those costs through the cover within their policy. 

Pet insurance generally covers the costs of local advertising expenses for a lost or stolen pet, and some policies pay a small reward for the safe return of the pet. But there are often conditions such as the pet being microchipped and not left unattended. Policies will usually not cover theft during the first few weeks of a policy (typically 14 days). 

After a fixed time period, if the pet is not founda typical policy will pay the policyholder the purchase price of the pet (up to specified policy limits). Although, no amount of financial reimbursement will come close to compensating for the loss of a pet, thefts could leave customers out of pocket, especially with the spike in pet prices we have seen in the past year 

The introduction of tougher penalties and a reduction in demand for puppies when the pandemic ends will hopefully ensure this type of crime remainrare.  

For more information and advice on pet theft and insurance, please get in touch with Andrew Considine, Managing Director of Niche Claims Andrew.Considine@davies-group.com 

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