A series of dog abductions in recent months has led a growing number of owners to purchase lockable steel core collars and cables that cannot be cut with bolt cutters while walking their pets.
Dog theft has increased as the animals available for purchase have become scarcer since the pandemic began. The average cost of a puppy doubled to almost £ 1,900 last year, with some breeds worth more than £ 6,000.
Last week, Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest in Los Angeles and the singer’s two French bulldogs were stolen. Meanwhile, the DogLost charity says the number of stolen dogs in the UK more than doubled last year.
British pet owners are now taking elaborate steps to avoid losing their dogs, including putting up taller fences in the garden, buying GPS trackers, and using devices like Petloc, a leash with two combination locks (holding it down). to the necklace at one end and a bracelet or belt at the other) and composed of a steel cable inside a resistant plastic cover.
Yarah David, who founded the company behind Petloc, reports a four-fold increase in lead sales of £ 50 so far this year.
“I can’t believe how many calls we’ve had in the last three or four weeks,” he said. “It is awful. I designed the leash to prevent dogs from being taken out of cars or out of stores. Now they are being stolen from people who are out for walks. They ask me, ‘What do I do if the strap is removed from my hand?’ “
His customers are trying to prevent this from happening by locking the cable into their own bodies, either by using a belt or a bicycle harness to secure one of the combination locks, David said. Lead can only be cut with bolt cutters, he added.
David is now working with a tracking company to create a version of Petloc with a GPS tracker on the collar.
“It’s all word of mouth,” he said. “I do not advertise, we are not even on social media. I’m an interior designer and I only designed this because there was nothing else available. “
Dog abduction, he says, is “ruining people’s lives because they are concerned about simply walking their dogs. For the people it has happened to, these are years of trauma. “
Owners are offering ever-increasing “rewards” for the return of their pets. Lady Gaga offered $ 500,000 for Koji and Gustav, taken by thieves after a fight with her walker, Ryan Fischer. The dogs were returned Friday night when a woman entered a Los Angeles police station with them. Police said the woman “appeared not to be involved.”
Some pet owners believe that offering large rewards can encourage theft by copycat dogs.
Activists, including the Missing and Stolen Pets Alliance, have called for pet theft to be made a specific crime, with a more severe punishment than property theft. The UK government has said it is considering changing the law.
There are also calls to reform the current pet microchip system to improve the chances of reuniting stolen pets with their owners. Although all dogs must be microchipped, there are at least 14 different microchip registration systems, according to British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos.
“It is possible to register in two separate databases,” he said. “We want there to be a single point of entry.” Pet owners often don’t update their details if they move house, he added.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently held a consultation on how to change the rules around the microchip.