A wave of dognapping over the past few months has led to a growing number of owners purchasing lockable steel-core collars and leashes that cannot be cut by bolt cutters when walking their pets.
Dog thefts have increased as animals available for purchase have become scarce since the start of the pandemic. The average cost of a puppy doubled to almost £ 1,900 last year, and some breeds are worth over £ 6,000.
Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest in Los Angeles last week and stole the singer’s two French Bulldogs. Meanwhile, the DogLost charity claims the number of dogs stolen in the UK more than doubled last year.
UK pet owners are now taking elaborate steps to avoid losing their dogs, including putting up taller garden fences, purchasing GPS trackers, and using devices like Petloc, a leash with two combination locks ( securing it to the collar on one end and a bracelet or belt on the other) and made up of a steel cable inside a strong plastic cover.
Yarah David, who founded the company behind Petloc, reports a fourfold increase in lead sales of £ 50 so far this year.
“I can’t believe how many calls we’ve had in the past three or four weeks,” she said. ” It’s horrible. I designed the leash to prevent dogs from getting out of cars or outside stores. Now they are being stolen from people walking around. I get asked ‘what do I do if they take the lead out of my hands?’ “
His clients are trying to prevent this from happening by locking the leash to their own body, either using a belt or a bicycle harness to secure one of the combination locks, David said. Lead can only be cut with bolt cutters, she added.
David is now working with a tracking company to create a version of Petloc with a GPS tracker in the collar.
“It’s all word of mouth,” she said. “I’m not advertising – we’re not even on social media. I am an interior designer and I only designed this because there was nothing else available.
Dognapping, she says, “ruins people’s lives because they just fear going out for a walk with their dogs. For the people to whom this has happened, it’s years of trauma.
Owners are offering ever greater “rewards” for the return of their pets. Lady Gaga offered $ 500,000 for Koji and Gustav, taken away by thieves after a fight with her walker, Ryan Fischer. The dogs were returned Friday night when a woman walked into a Los Angeles police station with them. Police said the woman “did not appear to be involved”.
Some pet owners believe that offering large rewards may encourage imitator dog theft.
Activists, including the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance, have called for pet theft to become a specific offense, with harsher penalties than for 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 animals with their owners. Although all dogs must be microchipped implanted, 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 on two separate databases,” she said. “We want there to be a single point of entry. Pet owners often don’t update their contact details if they move, she added.
The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently held a consultation on changing the microchip rules.