How to avoid accidentally buying a stolen dog

What you can do to avoid buying a stolen dog, as pet theft is on the rise during lockdown.
Increasing numbers of distraught owners are reporting dog thefts – here’s some tips to avoid buying a stolen pet (Picture: Getty)

An apparent rise in dog theft during lockdown has understandably left owners and prospective buyers worried about how best to protect their pets.

As lockdown forces Britons to continue working from home, more families are welcoming dogs into their households, leading to the price for puppies – especially pedigrees and crossbreeds – to ‘skyrocket’. Dogs Trust said it is ‘no wonder’ criminals are capitalising on this rise in demand, as increasing reports emerge of devastated families who helplessly watched as strangers ran off with their dogs.
One dad was beaten to the ground before thieves snatched his beloved Sprocker Spaniel Ted, and another thief attempted to grab a Labrador guide dog from a blind student . Several owners have shared warnings against men in ‘white vans’ claiming to work for the RSPCA in a bid to steal their pets, while heartbroken owners have offered rewards of up to £20,000 as part of desperate appeals to get their dogs home safely. Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance previously warned the public to be ‘vigilant’ when walking their dogs and that ‘nowhere is safe’, while the RSPCA said the hike in dognapping is ‘really concerning’.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Do you have a dog that experiences separation anxiety? Try leaving some clothing with him that you’ve worn. It’s been proven that the scent you leave behind on your clothes can help ease your dog’s separation anxiety.

‘Pet theft is a heartbreaking and distressing situation for both pets and their owners,’ an RSPCA spokesperson told
Maisy McAdam
A thief tried to steal Maisy McAdam’s guide dog Willow (Picture: Instagram/Maisy McAdam)
Mike Jasper and his dog Ted. A man who was beaten to the ground before watching helplessly as thieves made off with his beloved dog is offering a ?5,000 reward to get him back.
Mike Jasper was attacked by dogsnatchers who ran off with his beloved Ted, prompting the family to offer a £5,000 reward (Picture: Lucinda Jasper/SWNS)

‘We believe the rise in dognapping could be as a result of the surging popularity, and value, of certain “designer” breeds and crossbreeds, especially as the demand for dogs has skyrocketed during lockdown.’

What can prospective owners do to avoid buying a stolen dog?

Firstly, experts warn against buying a dog from an advert on social media or a classified website.

At the start of January this year, Dogs Trust found there were over 1,000 adverts for dogs on three of the largest classified websites – a 59% increase compared to the same period in 2020.

‘Source your new dog responsibly by using a reputable animal charity or rescue organisation, or use The Puppy Contract to find a responsible breeder and buy a happy, healthy puppy,’ an RSPCA spokesperson told

Love your pet. You are your pet’s favorite thing in the whole world. He craves your love, attention and care. So show him the love and devotion he shows you!

The best place to start searching for trustworthy rescues and charities across the UK and Ireland is the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH).
Guide to avoiding buying a stolen dog.
The RSPCA and Dogs Trust shared their tips for prospective pet owners (Picture:

For those looking to buy from a breeder, The Puppy Contract gives prospective dog owners all the relevant information they need to make an informed decision.

The RSPCA insists you should always visit the dog in person before paying a deposit or arranging its collection.

‘Check his general condition and welfare, ask to see relevant paperwork such as registration documents, health and vaccination records, and microchip information,’ added the spokesperson.

All puppies should be microchipped at eight weeks old and registered to a breeder, so potential owners should be able to check whether the paperwork matches.

Dogs Trust added that you should always ask to see puppy and mum together at their home – even if it’s via video call due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Experts insist you should ‘ask lots of questions’ and expect to be questioned too as a good breeder will want to know the puppy is going to a safe home.

MERCURY PRESS. (Pictured: Dachshunds Pippin and Purdey.) Two heartbroken schoolgirls have pleaded for the safe return of their 'stolen' dachshunds - and their parents have even offered a ??20k reward..Ruby Benson, eight, and Poppy, five, have been left devastated by the disappearance of pooches Pippin, eight, and Purdey, three. .Purdey sleeps with Ruby every night and the girls are both beside themselves with worry. (SEE MERCURY COPY)
Two heartbroken schoolgirls pleaded for the safe return of their dachshunds while their parents offered a £20,000 reward (Picture: Mercury Press)

Breathe easy. In addition to sweating through their paw pads, dogs pant to cool themselves off. A panting dog can take 300-400 breaths (compared to his regular 30-40) with very little effort.

Finally, check websites such as DogLost and AnimalSearchUK for any similar images or descriptions that could match your new pet to make sure you’re not buying one that’s been registered as missing or stolen. If you are suspicious that a dog may be stolen do not buy it and report your concerns to police on 101, or if you feel pressured into buying or feel something isn’t right, report the breeder to Trading Standards.

The RSPCA urged owners to ‘take extra precautions’ to protect dogs from thieves, like neutering pets, ensuring they are microchipped with up-to-date contact details registered, and attaching an engraved ID tag with contact numbers to their collar.

‘We’d also advise that owners never leave their pets tied up outside shops or alone in cars, ensure their gardens are secure with gates locked, and ensure their pet has a good recall and doesn’t stray too far when off-lead on walks,’ added a spokesperson.

‘Anyone who suspects their dog may have been stolen should immediately alert police, contact their microchip company to register their pet as stolen and inform local rescue groups, vets, dog walkers and neighbours.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at[email protected] .

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Your dog can help get you a date! One study showed that a man’s chances of getting a girl’s phone number went from 10% to 33%, just by having a dog with them. In the study, a staggering 66% of men and women would not date someone who didn’t like pets.

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