Protect your pets from dog theft

Dogs left unsupervised in gardens could be at risk from ‘dognappers’ who are taking advantage of soaring prices for lockdown pets.

Our research with over 1,200 UK dog owners revealed that 15% leave their pets unsupervised in the garden for long periods. With increased news reports of ‘dognapped’ pets, some worried dog owners have started to move away from walking in remote locations and are changing their times for exercising their pets. However, many pet owners reported they did not realise there is still a potential risk of theft when they leave their dogs in garden unattended.  

Rebecca Davidson, our Rural Affairs Specialist said:

“Although dog owners are on increasingly high alert for dog thieves when they are out, there’s a false sense of security when they’re at home. Fifteen percent say they leave their pet unattended in the garden for long periods of time, including when they are out at work. With one in six owners admitting their dog has escaped from home, it’s never been more important to keep your outdoor space secure and your dog in sight”

More than just a financial loss

Thefts are taking place all over the country and NFU Mutual has also been dealing with reports of stolen working dogs. There have been a number of cases where multiple sheepdogs have been taken from farms at a single time, which is an extremely worrying trend and hitting farmers hard.

Farming couple Esther and Jimmy Pritt from Leicestershire still haven’t given up the search for their brindle collie cross called Rabbit, who was worth over £4,000 and was snatched from their dairy farm over two years ago.

Esther said: “Her financial value is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what her loss has cost us. We were simply devastated to lose her.  She was a huge part of our family and our farm business. Not only was her work rate worth about three people, but she was my husband’s best friend.

“Isolation is a huge problem for farmers, who have to work alone for a large part of every day.  Rabbit and Jimmy meant the world to each other and had built a strong bond over seven years. For Jimmy to lose his main company during the work day has been a real challenge.”  

How to protect pets from dog theft:

  • Make sure your dog is microchipped and you keep the details up to date
  • Avoid leaving the dog outside unattended and out of sight, or in a vehicle on their own when thieves might take the opportunity to strike
  • Be careful what you share on social media, particularly about puppies and your location
  • If you are buying a dog, do not inadvertently fuel the rise in thefts; ensure that you thoroughly check the background and if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Be vigilant, record suspicious vehicle details and report any sightings to police
  • Criminals may also try and build a picture of your daily routine so vary that if possible
  • Ensure you have clear photos and note down any identifiable features of your animal as, if you are unfortunate enough to have your dog stolen, these will be vital in tracking the dog down and proving your ownership


* Petbuzz Market Research surveyed 1,237 dog owners on behalf of NFU Mutual from 23 December 2020 and 12 January 2021.

Q: Is your dog allowed to spend time outside in your garden (within confines of your outdoor property boundary) unsupervised for extended periods of time (for example, when you are at work)? A: Yes 15.00% No 85.00%

Q: Has your dog ever escaped from home (including the garden)? A: Yes 16.16% No 83.84%