Dog theft: Is it time to rethink your security?

Matt Limb OBE looks at the growth of dog theft and provides some useful advice on prevention.
It is a crime that is on the increase, that cannot be denied. Both the government and the Police & Crime Commissions are taking an interest, yet police budgets have been reduced. Here in Lincolnshire, as in many other rural regions, dog theft is becoming a serious issue.

Many see it as simply a rural crime which it is not. There is an ever-increasing reported number of highly valuable dogs, including working dogs, being stolen, often by organised gangs targeting beloved pets to sell on the black market.

I know of many who have reviewed the security arrangements of their kennels and I even know of owners bringing their dogs into the house at night due to the fear of theft. But what security do you have in place for your best friend? Do you rely on a padlock from the local DIY superstore? Can you do more without it costing a small fortune?

You may not need masses of hi-tech expensive security equipment installed, but what you do need is to rethink your wider security issues; not just your dog’s kennel but your house and property, and that will cost you nothing.

First of all, take some time and stand outside your property looking at it, then ask yourself, ‘if I wanted to break in and steal dogs from here, how would I do it?’ Start by looking at your boundary wall or fence. How hard would it be to climb over, or push through the hedge, to gain access to your property? Is part of that boundary under cover, obscured, or hidden behind a building? Would you be free to climb then wait for your moment? Or is everything in full view of your house or a neighbour’s? Finally, looking at your property, can you see any evidence of security systems or notices regarding security systems?

What about moving about within your property? Do you have vehicles parked, or large garden shrubs to provide cover from view to a potential thief? We then come to the kennel: is it enclosed within a secure run? Again look at the access to climb into the run. Does it have a secure padlock? Are the hinges welded and secured?

Thinking like this, you can start to work on your best means of protection. Sadly, the bottom line is if someone is determined to steal your dog, they will. What you need to do is make it as hard as possible – and if they do steal your dog, make getting them back as quick and easy as possible.

Some years ago I was introduced to the mnemonic 3D-I-2R which stands for: Deter, Deny, Delay, Inform, Response and Recover:
• Deter: Make stealing your dog too much trouble and hard work.
• Deny: Make it as difficult as possible to gain access to your property, kennel and then to leave the property.
• Delay: Make access by a would-be thief more difficult, noisier and time-consuming, increasing the chances of him or her being discovered whilst on your property.
• Inform: Provide warnings to change the potential thief’s mind using clear and highly visible signs at regular intervals around your property, announcing that active CCTV is in operation and the property is monitored by an active alarm, plus manned 24 hours a day.
• Response: Record CCTV footage, use a loud alarm or any system, including floodlighting that is activated once a thief is inside your property.
• Recover: Ensure systems and plans are in place to assist the swift recovery of your dog should it be stolen. The most obvious way is via the microchip, but when did you last check your dog’s microchip was fully functional? What about publicity following a theft? Social media is often good for this, but do you have recent suitable photographs of the dog to help, and an effective plan?

Remember, dog security should not just focus on the dog, you must take into consideration the wider security at the various levels. It was soon very apparent to me that, by thinking like this, your whole concept of security changes; it makes you think about the use of integrated security systems rather than the typical knee-jerk reaction of a simple alarm, or buying a bigger padlock for the kennel door. For example, would a discreet and hidden CCTV system that covers just the kennel be as effective a deterrent as a highly visible CCTV camera focused on the main access gate or other access points to your property, supported by signs saying that the CCTV is active? What if the CCTV camera moved and panned, or even made a noise?

In the current economic climate the theft of highly valuable dogs, especially working dogs, is only likely to increase. You may be one of the lucky ones and get your dog back, but this will be no compensation for the worry it causes. But with the application of some simple tactics, you may prevent the theft in the first place, or at least help in a swift recovery.

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