It’s no longer only your wallet, watch and cellphone you need to keep safe. It seems that now thieves may also be after your dog.
The Telegraph recently reported that an estimated 3 500 pet thefts were reported in England last year. And here in South Africa, whilst it is difficult to estimate the number of dog thefts, it is thought to be on the increase - so much so that the police in Western Cape have formed a special unit to investigate dog theft.
"Dog theft has been a problem since 2009, when police became aware of stolen dogs being smuggled to countries such as Angola and Mozambique," says Constable André Brown of this special unit. This special investigations unit was formed a month ago to deal with the growing problem of dog theft in the Western Cape. "Currently we deal with one or two cases of dog theft per month, but we believe that many cases go unreported."
This unit is assisted by the National Animal Welfare Task Team (NAWTT), headed by Mariette Hopley. She has recently been involved in various rescues of stolen dogs – many of which were on their way out of the country. NAWTT is involved in co-coordinating care for these dogs until they are returned to their rightful owners.
According to NAWTT, most dogs are stolen from their owners' properties. Constable Brown says there are also incidences of theft out of cars, but theft from the home remains most common. Pit bulls, boerbulls, Rottweilers, bull terriers, German shepherds and huskies are the most commonly stolen dogs.
It is strongly suspected that most of these dogs are sold to serve as fighting dogs and are often smuggled out of the country for this purpose.
NAWTT aims to raise awareness with the public on preventing dog theft. They recommend that if your dog is missing, you should distribute pamphlets in postboxes and on notice boards at vets and animal welfare organisations. Pamphlets should include photos of the dog and a contact number. If you are offering a reward, do not place the amount on the pamphlet, as it may make your vulnerable to other crimes.
If you suspect that your dog has been stolen, go directly to your nearest police station to make a statement and get a case number. The NAWTT facebook group also provides more information on the best procedure to follow.
Tips for keeping your dog safe
Make sure your yard is safe, by building a fence around it and keeping the gate closed or locked.
Keep dogs at the back of your house as they can easily be poisoned or stolen in the front.
Your dog should always wear a collar with an ID tag.
Micro chips can be placed in dogs for easier identification. Stolen dogs can be traced back to their owners when they are scanned.
Be aware of any strange vehicles, people or children in your neighbourhood. Report any suspicious behaviour to security staff in your area.
Don't leave your dog outside when you're not around.
Never leave your dog unattended in a car.
Take regular photos of your dog from different angles that clearly show its face, colouring, coat type and any exceptional physical characteristics.
Keep all your ownership papers (adoption, breeding contract, receipt of sale) in case you need to prove that you are the owner.
(Sources: National Animal Welfare Task Team, PetPlace.com)
(Christa Rohwer, Health24, January 2013)
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