Dog theft: Derry City and Strabane District Council urges owners to remain vigilant

Derry City and Strabane District Council is urging dog owners across the region to remain vigilant against the possible theft of dogs

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 3:39 pm
Dog owners have been urged to be vigilant.
Dog owners have been urged to be vigilant.

The advice comes following concern raised by elected members at a recent Council meeting where a notice of motion was passed urging Council to help raise awareness of the issue.

Enda Cummins, Principal Environmental Health Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council said that while the Council is ​not aware of there being any local incidents of dogs being stolen in this area, there are increasing reports of dogs going missing or being stolen from other parts of Northern Ireland, and in the Republic of Ireland.

Urging dog owners to be vigilant, Enda Cummins said it’s important that owners act responsibly and take all the necessary precautions to deter thieves and protect their pets.

He commented: “Unfortunately it seems the increase in dog ownership over lockdowns has also translated to a rise in dog thefts, as thieves know how valuable some of these breeds can be and see them as a commodity rather than a beloved member of the family. It is no doubt heart breaking to lose your family pet, especially if it has been stolen, as you don’t likely know what may happen to them. There are however, a number of simple things that dog owners can do to reduce this from happening and to increase the chances of being reunited with their dog. They include microchipping, ensuring your pet wears a collar or tag and that your dog is kept in secure area and in close proximity to its owners when out and about.”

Microchip and licence your dog: Microchipping is a simple, safe modern identification method which is permanent and can’t be removed, so even if someone steals your dog we can still trace it by its microchip. Licensing your dog is not only a legal requirement but also ensures that Council dog wardens can quickly reunite dog owners with their beloved pets should they pick them up. This database can be used as evidence to prove ownership of your dog should someone else claim that it is theirs.

Collars and tags/discs: Your dog must have a collar with an identity tag/disc attached to it; which states the owner’s name, address and contact telephone number. Ideally also state on the tag that the dog is microchipped. Do not put your dog’s name on the tag, as someone trying to steal could try to call its name to get it to come over.

Keep an eye on your dog: The most important thing to do is keep an eye on your dog at all times especially when you are out in public. Take the time to train your dog to come back to you on command. This will help if you need to get them to come back to you quickly, if you think they are in danger. It also means they are less likely to run off on walks and in public places. If your dog can’t be off a lead then don’t risk it.

Keep your dog on your property when you are at home and never let it wander around the neighbourhood i.e. stray.

Keep your dog in a secure area: Only leave your dog in your garden or backyard if it is secure. It’s worth checking fences for gaps and ensuring that gates are kept closed; even putting a lock on your gate if deemed appropriate. This will prevent your dog from being able to escape and also prevent anyone easily accessing your garden or back yard.

Be wary of strangers: Be wary of anyone who comes to your front door, or admires your dog in the park. While it’s nice to receive compliments about your dog from strangers, you should be cautious if they start asking for personal information. Do not let them hold your dog or take photos with them, it could just be a way of distracting you.

Don’t leave your dog outside shops: Some dog owners occasionally tie their dog outside a shop. Due to the increase in dog theft, it’s probably best to refrain from doing it. If you have to walk to the shops with your dog take someone with you to be outside with them.

Spay or Neuter your dog will deter some people from stealing your dog as they will be unable to use it for breeding purposes

Don’t leave your dog in your car: If you leave your dog in your car with the windows down then they are potentially a sitting target to thieves. They can easily force open windows or reach in and grab your dog, it only takes a few seconds. This theft is fairly rare and one has to balance the importance of ventilation during warmer weather when dogs ideally should only be left in cars for a very short time period.

Report Any Incidents – Vigilance is the key - if you see any suspicious behaviour or people come up to you and start asking strange questions about your dog, report it. You could prevent an incident from happening in the first place.

If you believe your dog has been stolen then it’s important that you report the crime to the police and ask for a reference number. Contact the Council’s dog warden service, local animal rehoming charities and use social media to spread awareness to help reunite you with your dog.

Concluding Enda said: “If you are interested in getting a family pet you should avoid buying dogs online through non- reputable sites and gather as much history and information about the dog and seller as possible. One of the main reasons why dog thieves exist is because it is profitable and without proper checks you may be keeping them in business. We would always recommend that you consider getting a dog from an animal rehoming charity; where the primary motivation is to ensure that the dog finds a good home and is not financially driven.

The Dog Shelter at Unit 7a Pennyburn Industrial Estate, Derry, BT48 0LU opening times remain as normal: Mon – Fri: 10.00am – 11.00am & 3.30pm – 4.30pm, Saturday: 11.00am-12.00pm; however visits are strictly by appointment only. To prevent an unnecessary journey, please contact 07512280760 If you are collecting a lost/stray dog or wish to rehome an unclaimed stray

Please note that Council no longer accepts unwanted dogs. If you wish to rehome your dog they recommend that you contact one of our two local animal rehoming charities: Pet FBI (Tel: 07512 280760) or Rainbow Rehoming Centre for Rescue Cats and Dogs (Tel: 028 71 812882).

If you have any queries regarding stray dogs, please email [email protected]