Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Dogs mean everything to their families, and it’s difficult to fathom how anyone could steal your best friend. Dognapping is a horrendous crime, but unfortunately, it’s not a rare occurrence. Punishments for pet theft do not deter criminals because most laws consider dogs and cats as property rather than sentient beings. Dog owners have reported their pets being stolen from their backyards, during walks, and even when the animals are secured indoors.
Although dog thefts are on the rise and the statistics seem alarming, the data highlights the severity of the problem and helps pet parents protect their beloved canines.
The 12 Dognapping and Dog Theft Statistics
- Two million dogs are stolen every year in the United States.
- One-third of all dogs and cats in the United States go missing every year.
- More than 80% of missing pets are never found.
- Between 9.4 to 9.6 million pets are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year.
- The threat of pet theft affects 70% of all U.S. homes.
- From 2019 to 2020, dog thefts in the U.K. increased by 170%.
- 98% of all dog theft criminals are never charged for the crime.
- In 2020, approximately 196 dogs were stolen every month in the U.K.
- The North West region experienced the highest rates of dog theft. In 2020, 335 dogs were stolen.
- Parliament received 146,638 signatures from citizens to change the Pet Theft Act of 1968.
- Dog theft rates in Australia have doubled since the start of the pandemic.
- Australia has an estimated 150 dogfighting rings, and stolen dogs are often used as “fighting bait.”
Dog Theft Statistics in the United States
1. Two million dogs are stolen every year in the United States.
Criminals steal dogs for various reasons, but most are motivated by greed. Rare breeds and highly valued pups can be sold to unreputable dealers, medical testing centers, and ordinary citizens unaware of the dog’s origin. Although illegal dog-fighting clubs sometimes search for large breeds for their inhumane contests, they also steal smaller dogs to serve as target practice for their champion fighters. Law enforcement agencies and animal rights organizations have warned the public about the sharp increase in dog theft in recent years and urge owners to avoid leaving their pets alone in the car or tied to a chain in the yard.
2. One-third of all dogs and cats in the United States go missing.
Although the missing pet statistics combine the number of animals stolen and lost, the numbers are no less shocking. When they head out alone, missing pets face multiple threats, including attacks from predators, speeding automobiles, poisons intended for rodents, wildlife traps, and immoral criminals looking for a quick profit. Pet parents who have their pets fixed and keep them in their homes are less likely to experience an escape or theft.
3. More than 80% of missing pets are never found.
Law enforcement agencies and pet detective firms have helped owners reunite with their pets, but they seem to be fighting a losing battle when you examine their success rates. If only 20% of the pets missing every year are returned, pet thieves have a large pool of victims they can exploit. When an animal goes missing, owners can distribute flyers, contact the police, and send social media alerts, but the odds are against them. Returning a stolen computer or television to the rightful owner is more likely than locating a lost or stolen dog.
4. Between 9.4 to 9.6 million pets are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year.
When lost dogs and cats are not adopted quickly enough, they’re killed to make room for the new arrivals. Peeva studied 3500 U.S. shelters, but only 1000 responded to their surveys. However, they estimated that over 15 million animals enter shelters every year, and 64% of them are euthanized. The ASPCA reports that the numbers are much lower, but some have questioned the accuracy of ASPCA’s findings and speculated that the organization had downplayed the lost pet crisis. Until every shelter provides researchers with consistent lost pet reports, the total number of adopted and euthanized animals may never be known.
5. The threat of pet thefts affects 70% of all U.S. homes.
Like Australia and the United Kingdom, the United States is a nation of pet lovers. Dogs are the top pets, and Americans spend billions every year on pet food, vet services, and other pet-related products and services. Criminals understand how valuable dogs are to their owners, and they go to extreme lengths to capture the animals when they’re most vulnerable.
Dog Theft Statistics in the United Kingdom
6. From 2019 to 2020, dog thefts in the U.K. increased by 170%.
Lockdowns and travel restrictions forced U.K. citizens and the rest of the world to spend more time indoors during the onset of the global pandemic. Animal adoptions skyrocketed, and dog thieves took notice. The massive increase in thefts is shocking, but it’s unclear how quickly the theft rate increased in other countries like the United States. Doglost is a U.K. organization that tracks stolen pets and reunites them with their owners, but the United States does not have an advocacy group or law enforcement agency that provides new data every year. Professional and amateur pet detectives dispute the findings of the AKC and Adopt a Pet that suggests the increase in dog thefts is only anecdotal.
7. 98% of all dog theft criminals are never charged for the crime.
(The Kennel Club)
This statistic highlights the inadequacy of pet protection laws in the U.K. and other countries. When only 2% of criminals are charged and prosecuted for dog theft, other thieves are emboldened to continue and accelerate their illegal activities. The U.K. established a Pet Theft Task Force during the pandemic to respond to the rapid increase in theft, but activists insist that the problem cannot be resolved until penalties for the crime are increased and reporting of thefts becomes more consistent and transparent.
8. In 2020, approximately 196 dogs were stolen every month in the U.K.
(The Kennel Club)
Times of crisis bring out the worst in criminals, and when the world was struggling to survive in 2020, some citizens also had to deal with the devastating loss of their best friends. The increase of dog adoptions during the pandemic gave thieves more victims to target, and it also increased the number of fraudulent breeders. When criminals set up fake adoption sites, they were able to steal vast sums from locked-in victims only looking for a new pet to love during the crisis.
9. The North West region of the U.K. experienced the highest rates of dog theft. In 2020, 335 dogs were stolen.
(The Kennel Club)
The North West region accounted for 14% of the total number of dogs stolen in 2020. London had the second-highest theft rate, with 318 dogs stolen that year. Only three police forces brought charges against dog thieves in 2020—the Metropolitan Police, Cheshire Constabulary, and Kent Police.
10. Parliament received 146,638 signatures from citizens to change the Pet Theft Act of 1968.
With dog thefts on the rise in 2020, U.K. citizens demanded that their government increase the penalties of thieves and “reclassify the theft of a pet as a specific crime.” Although Parliament has not strengthened the Pet Theft Act of 1968, the government debated the issue on October 19, 2020, and stated that new laws would consider the emotional distress caused by the thefts and increase penalties for criminals.
Dog Theft Statistics in Australia
11. Dog theft rates in Australia have doubled since the start of the pandemic.
Like many pet parents in the United Kingdom and the United States, Australian dog owners faced a rise in thefts compared to years prior to the pandemic. Australians experienced longer lockdowns and restrictions than most countries, and they tried to find solace by bringing new pets into their homes. However, the increase in thefts also brought a rise in fake adoptions. Victims who could not travel due to restrictions were unable to verify the authenticity of adoption agents. Criminals used online communication to their advantage and convinced their clients to send funds for dogs that never existed.
12. Australia has an estimated 150 dogfighting rings, and stolen dogs are often used as “fighting bait.”
(Sydney Veterinary Specialists)
Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and Pit Bulls are prized targets for participants of fighting clubs because of the animals’ size and strength, but thieves also steal small breeds to use as “fighting bait.” Illegal dogfighting is a problem worldwide, but Australian pet owners may be surprised that the inhumane practice has proliferated in their country. To reduce the number of stolen pets winding up in fighting clubs, several classified advertisement websites in Australia have banned clients from posting ads offering free dogs for loving homes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dognapping
Examining the dognapping statistics over the last 2 years can make you question humanity’s morality, but the shocking numbers may convince owners to take further precautions to protect their pets. Here are some additional facts about dog thefts and tips for keeping your canine safe from criminals.
Which breeds are stolen the most in the United States?
Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and other high-priced purebreds are targeted more by criminals than mixed breeds. AKC Reunite’s CEO recently mentioned that smaller dogs like Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas were also popular dogs for thieves because of their compact size.
Which dogs are most popular in the United States?
Although the Yorkshire Terrier tops the list for dog thieves, the Labrador Retriever has been the favorite in the United States for 30 years. The Norwegian Lundehund grabbed the 195th spot as the most unpopular canine. AKC published its list of the country’s most popular dogs of 2020 in March 2021. Here are the breeds that made the top 20:
Which U.S. States prohibit animal tethering?
Tethered dogs are easy targets for dognappers; they cannot run away when thieves enter their yards. Keeping an animal chained can also be emotionally and physically harmful to canines, and luckily, some states have responded to the public’s calls for stricter enforcement. The length of time a dog is tethered and the type of tethers allowed varies by region, but only 23 states have laws limiting the practice. As of 2021, the states that fine offenders for tethering animals include:
Although all 50 states have animal cruelty laws, the regions that experience the harshest winter weather, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, and Minnesota, do not penalize owners for keeping their pets chained up in subzero temperatures.
How can you prevent dognapping?
The increase in dog thefts since 2019 is disheartening, but you can reduce the likelihood of your pet being stolen by implementing these procedures:
Which countries consider pets as sentient beings rather than things?
In December 2021, Spain became only the fourth country to alter its civil code to identify pets as sentient beings rather than things. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland were the first countries to follow the 2009 Lisbon Treaty that established pets as intelligent beings, but other pet-loving nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have not elevated animals to a status above property.
Thieves make significant profits when they steal dogs, and they’re unlikely to cease their criminal activities if the prosecution rates remain low. You can reduce the likelihood of dog theft by keeping your dog indoors and securing your property, but the possibility of losing your pet will exist unless governing bodies increase penalties for dognapping and reclassify dogs as sentient beings.
Featured Image Credit: Daisy Daisy, Shutterstock