What can we do about dog theft? by Geraldine Cove-Print

Created: 13/06/2012

Mindless cruelty to animals is guaranteed to make any sane person’s blood reach boiling point and the break in at Second Chance Animal Rescue in Crockenhill near Swanley in Kent where rabbits were kicked so badly that euthanasia was the only option and chickens were literally torn apart, sickens me to the very depth of my soul.
John Ranger and his partner Julie Tullett set up the not for profit rescue some years ago. John knows all about surviving, he had his first stroke at the tender age of 21 and was confined to a wheelchair for many months as he regained his strength and learned to walk again, since then John has suffered another three strokes.
His desire to help animals drives him on but this blow to the heart of his rescue has knocked him sideways. John said: "When we arrived for early feeding we couldn’t believe the scene of carnage, our five-year-old son was with us as usual and we couldn’t shield him from the terrible sight, he saw it all.”
Four dogs were stolen including the family’s Border Terrier, Copper. Another dog stolen had been rescued from a scrap yard where he had been chained as a guard dog. When Buster came to them he had a huge scald wound along his back where boiling water had been thrown at him. John is particularly worried that Buster may be used as a baiting dog. "Buster is such a bold, strong dog with the heart of a lion…”  he said. You can see a photograph of Buster when he was first rescued, complete with heavy chain, on the rescue’s website.
In my conversation with John he broke down several times; my heart went out to this man who has been so strong for so long who now has to literally pick up the pieces.
Two Jack Russells were also taken and yet the horses and other animals were left locked in their stables and pens. Local people have volunteered to rebuild the sheds and buildings on the piece of land rented by John and Julie. They still have over 300 animals on site to take care of and that means struggling to rebuild around the damage and remnants of the dreadful attack.
John is deeply touched by the messages and offers of support from all over the UK as well as emails and telephone calls from further afield like France and Belgium. A reward is now being offered to recover the dogs and let’s hope that someone offers information to bring the evil individuals responsible, to book.
Dog theft is a crime that is most certainly on the rise, stealing to order and dognapping to extract a large amount of money from the terrified owners is as common as stealing animals to be used as ‘bait dogs’, used by the dog fighting community to ‘train’ their animals to attack live prey.
The thought of losing your dog and it ending up as part of a dog fighting ring is almost too horrible to contemplate and don’t think your hound is safe if you live ‘out in the sticks’, the fewer neighbours, the less likely the thieves are to be disturbed. Even Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler has invested some of her winnings to increase home security to protect Pudsey her dog partner in heelwork to music. And who can blame her? Pudsey is now one of the most recognisable canines of 2012.
What can we do if our dog is stolen? First port of call has to be the police, if there was a break in there may be usable clues and traces to track down the thieves. The second thing to do is let the local community know you have lost a dog by using posters and contacting all veterinary surgeries in the area, this is when a picture can say a thousand words.
Dog Lost UK have an extraordinary volunteer base and an exceptional website for information, they can offer excellent advice as well as producing posters and organising searches if necessary. Another fabulous organisation is K9 Search UK, concentrating mostly on the Midlands this tireless volunteer base, led by Jennie Dhanjal, has reunited hundreds of lost dogs with their owners.
Both these very worthwhile charities are always asking for support, just think how alone you would feel looking for your dog and how relieved when someone steps forward to help. K9 Search also try to help when a dog is about to outstay its seven days grace in the pound by attempting to locate rescue spaces and transporting dogs to a place of safety.
We all know we can’t save them all but given a little more time many dogs find a forever home with K9 Search’s assistance. For a great fundraising plan an online photo competition is always worth a go, you can enter this charity’s at www.K9searchuk.com. Entries are just a pound and I can assure you the money is going to a very good cause and who knows, perhaps yours is the muckiest mutt or the golden oldie?
 Another idea for keeping tags on your dog is the Retrieva collar, at just under £250 for one to fit a medium sized dog it’s a large investment as it also has an additional cost of £79.99 per year for the usage. The advantages of the collar are that you can track your dog with your mobile phone or on your computer. The collar is difficult to remove and may just give the edge in the case of a snatch or if your dog becomes lost – an amazing piece of kit!
It obviously makes sense to have a permanent form of identification on your dog and this is where the tattoo scores over the microchip as it’s clearly visible and may be a deterrent to a thief.
Ultimately, the best course of action is prevention, I still shudder when I see dogs tied up outside the supermarket waiting patiently for their owner to return, or see the number of dogs available on no fee ad sites as ‘free to a good home’ and dogs given away from rescue centres where no home check is carried out and the fee is waived because the dog is ‘difficult’.
All dogs are vulnerable, while there are popular breeds to snatch for resale all breeds and crossbreeds have a value. To you they are irreplaceable to the thief it’s about hard cash.