The UK is a nation of pet lovers, in fact over half of households are home to a furry, scaly or feathered friend. Pets are so important that the government is even considering a law that would put convicted dog thieves behind bars for up to five years.
But the sad fact is that some areas are more dangerous for pets than others, with higher instances of pet theft reported to the police. These crimes are every pet owner’s worst nightmare, inflicting extreme distress on people who view their animal as part of the family.
Pets are stolen for a number of reasons. The Blue Cross said that convictions of pet thieves have revealed motivations of financial gain and breeding, including puppy farming.
To find out which areas are suffering the most pet thefts, ADT Home Security requested information from police forces across the country on the number of reported thefts over the last five years. The research also revealed which areas are “safest” for pets, locations where pet theft is increasing the fastest and which pets are most at risk.
The UK’s three pet theft hotspots
The following areas of the UK have seen the most pet thefts on average since 2017:
Devon and Cornwall - 140.6 pet thefts per 100,000 people
Pets most likely to be stolen in this area: Birds
Devon and Cornwall have the unfortunate title of the UK’s pet theft hotspot, with the police jurisdiction recording more than 140 stolen pets per 100,000 of the population since 2017. Birds make up the majority of the victims of these crimes, with more than 1,500 instances of bird theft since 2017.
Northumbria - 61.5 pet thefts per 100,000 people
Pets most likely to be stolen in this area: Dogs
Next up is Northumbria, recording slightly more than 62 pet thefts per 100,000 people over the last five years. If you have a canine companion you should be wary in this area as they’re the most likely victims, with 437 recorded dog thefts since 2017.
Lancashire - 52.9 pet thefts per 100,000 people
Pets most likely to be stolen in this area: Dogs
Taking third place is this region in the northeast with over 50 pet thefts per 100,000 people since 2017. Much like Northumbria, dogs are the most commonly stolen pets, with an average of 117 stolen each year.
UK’s ‘safest’ areas for pets where theft is least common
Surrey - 6.8 pet thefts per 100,000 people
Taking the top spot is Surrey, with just under seven pet thefts per 100,000 people over the last five years. The region has a remarkably low number of pet thefts, going as low as four recorded thefts in 2019, nearly 10 times less than its peak in 2017 of only 38.
West Midlands - 10.4 pet thefts per 100,000 people
Up next is the West Midlands, with only 10.4 pet thefts per 100,000 people over the last five years. Like other jurisdictions, dogs are the most commonly stolen pets with Staffies being the most stolen breed, followed closely by Chihuahuas.
Gwent - 13.9 pet thefts per 100,000 people
Taking third place is Gwent, in South Wales. Unlike many other areas, Gwent Police have not recorded any dog thefts over the last five years making it one of the safest places for four-legged friends.
UK areas where number of pet thefts are increasing the fastest
Derbyshire - 147% increase in pet thefts
Derbyshire has seen the biggest increase in pet thefts between 2017 and 2021, rising by nearly 150% over the last five years. The region experienced its highest proportion in 2021, with owners reporting 7.4 pet thefts per 100,000 people, over double that of five years ago.
Devon and Cornwall - 83% increase in pet thefts
This southwestern region is up next, with a rise of over 80% since 2017. Thefts in the area spiked in 2018 to almost 290 per 100,000 people before dropping rapidly to just under 11 in 2019 and birds are the most commonly stolen pet in the region, accounting for 86% of animal thefts.
Greater London - 63% increase in pet thefts
Taking third place is Greater London, with the Police recording a 63% increase over the last five years. The jurisdiction saw a sharp rise between 2020 and 2021, from 6.8 to 11.4 thefts per 100,000 people.
Most commonly stolen pets
Dogs - 15.5 pet thefts per 100,000 people
Man’s best friend takes first place, making up 23% of pet thefts since 2017. Dog thefts peaked last year at 1,155 but the number of thefts per 100,000 people has remained relatively consistent, only rising by 4.9% over the last five years.
Birds - eight pet thefts per 100,000 people
Up next are birds, with more than 2,500 instances of animals being stolen over the last five years, giving it a total of eight pet thefts per 100,000 people. 2021 was the peak year for stealing our feathered friends with over 1,200 stolen over this period and Devon and Cornwall have the highest rates of bird theft, recording more than 1,500 of these crimes.
Cats - 4.1 pet thefts per 100,000 people
Taking third place are our feline friends with more than 1,300 instances of cat theft over the last five years. Cat thefts are also on the rise, averaging around an 18% increase year on year since 2017.
What you can do to prevent pet theft
Microchipping is already required by law for both dogs and cats, and with good reason. It can help to easily identify and quickly return your pet to you if they get lost or stolen, giving you peace of mind and keeping them safe both inside and outside the home.
Be careful on social media
Be wary of the information you post on social media. Keep your privacy settings in mind and beware of strangers online asking questions about your pet. If you’re visiting a new place make sure to only tag the location when you get home and blur out any identification tags in photos.
Walk in pairs
Taking your dog for a walk on your own could make you an easy target for pet thieves especially when it’s dark, so consider taking someone with you but remember to stay focused on your pet. Always make sure to walk where it’s well-lit and tell others the route you’re taking to protect both you and your pet.
Get a sitter
This tip mainly applies to dogs, as they’re social animals who don’t like being alone for long periods of time. If you find that you’re too busy to keep an eye on them and there’s no one else in the house, hire a sitter to give your four-legged friend some company and the presence of someone in the home will deter an opportunistic thief.
Install home security
Pet-friendly house alarms can provide you with all the security assurances knowing that your family and pets are protected. You can also add indoor Wi-Fi cameras to your home that allow you to check in on your pets from your smartphone - some even have two-way audio so you can reassure them no matter how far away you are.