Dog welfare groups claim thefts of canines is on the rise amid a surge in demand

Animal welfare groups are saying more pople are reporting the theft of animals. Stock image

A spike in the thefts of dogs across the country could be related to a high demand in pets brought about by Covid-19 lockdown. 

Lynne Cullen, an administrator of Missing Dogs Ireland Facebook page, said the amount of dogs being reported to the page as missing or stolen has doubled.

“It has gotten so bad," she said. "It seems like every second that someone is messaging the page. They are being snatched across the country, taken from people's gardens. People can’t even let their dogs out to pee anymore."

She said the demand for dogs as pets over the Covid-19 lockdown period has resulted in more reports of stolen dogs.

“A cute fluffy little dog, who would have been sold for €600 before Covid-19, is now selling for over €2,000. It is an industry. The amount of dogs reported missing has probably increased by 100%,” she said, adding that to combat the thefts, dog owners must be extra vigilant.

“You have to keep them inside and watch them 24/7. If they need to go out to the bathroom, you need to go with them, even late at night.” 

She said another issue was people on the page trying to claim dogs that they don’t own, only for the real owners to show up later.

“People out there will take your little pet, they don’t care. We even had one person, who reported their dog missing in the west of the country, only for it to be discovered that a boy around the age of 13 was seen taking the dog from the yard and into a van.” 

Despite the increase in activity on the Facebook page, a spokesperson for the gardaí has said that they have not seen an increase in dog thefts when compared to last year.

“An Garda Síochána has not recorded a spike in recorded activity on the theft of dogs during the first half of 2020. During those six months there have been 41 incidents recorded in 2020, compared to 38 incidents in 2019,” a spokesperson said.

Kate O'Connor, from Midleton, is another administrator on the Missing Dogs Ireland page. She said the reason gardaí have not seen a rise in dogs reported as being stolen is people are turning to social media instead.

“People know that the gardaí have their hands tied," she said. 

They also know that we are all over social media and that we know people up and down the country. So they are turning to us instead.

A spokesperson for Dogs Trust Ireland supported claims there had been a rise in thefts.

"Sadly, we have seen an increase in the number of dogs missing, suspected as stolen on our Lost and Found Dogs Facebook Group so, we would urge dog owners to be very careful with their dogs and not to leave them in their gardens unsupervised, leave them outside shops or let them out of their sight while out walking.

"We would also ask people to ensure their dogs are microchipped and most importantly, that their most up-to-date contact details are recorded against the microchip and if in any doubt to contact their microchip database provider."

Gardaí revealed on social media that a Jack Russell Terrier in Youghal in east Cork, stolen from the family home by two men, had been reunited with its owner after being traced to Galway.

“Following an investigation by gardaí, the men were traced to an address in Galway. With the assistance of local gardaí in Galway, the dog has since been recovered and was reunited with its owners,” Gardai said.