Every time I go on the internet, I am greeted with posts of stolen dogs. As well as being deeply distressing for their owners, it’s sure to have an impact on the dogs welfare too. It is simply awful and worrying for the rest of us dog owners. I often see posts of how to reduce your chances of being victim to this. But that’s not what I want to talk about right now.
Dogs are being stolen because people can make money from them. Over lockdown we saw the prices for puppies soar and suddenly this seemed like a quick and easy way to make money. Stolen dogs make money. But if more people knew what to look for, what to expect and what to ask of someone selling a dog and the laws involved, the success of selling stolen dogs would surely reduce.
So let’s look at the law:
As of May 2019, Lucy’s Law came into place. Unless you are the breeder, it is illegal to sell a dog on who is under 6 months old. If a puppy has been bought from a breeder and the owner no longer wants them, then the puppy must either be returned to the breeder or taken to a rehoming centre.
As of April 2016 it became law that all dogs must be microchipped before leaving the breeder. Microchips help find the owner if the dog is found alone. If someone is trying to sell an un microchipped dog then they are breaking the law.
Tail docking has been banned in the UK unless the breeder is intending to sell the dog as a working dog. Docking should be performed by a vet who would sign a docking certificate. An honest breeder would provide documentation of the docking certificates.
In addition to the law, there are things potential buyers should look out for.
You should always be able to meet at least one of the parents, mainly the mum. Puppies 8 weeks old and under should be with their mum to feed from and for security whilst they make sense of the world around them. If the person selling the puppies is withholding information or not allowing you to see the rest of the litter, this should raise alarm bells.
A good breeder would want to know what kind of home their puppy is going to. You would expect them to ask questions about yourself and your home.
Many breeders will have taken the puppies to the vets for a full health check and 1st puppy vaccination before selling them on.
Observe the environment that the puppies are living in. Is it warm? Do they have plenty of safe toys? Is it safe and away from young children and loud noises? What happens to a dog as a puppy can have a huge influence on how the rest of their lives. Many breeders even play sounds of traffic, other animals and general day to day noises to help the puppies get used to these sounds.
If the breeder does not have appropriate documentation, has not followed the laws mentioned above, does not ask you questions or withholds information, then either they are not a responsible breeder, or there is something more cynical going on.
Buying from breeders who care for their dogs welfare and have an understanding of dog behaviour, training and development is a great way to promote and support responsible breeding. I hope that by doing so we will see a decrease in the numbers of dogs and puppies being stolen. If people know what to look out for and do not buy from anyone but a responsible breeder, then I hope that there will no longer be a market for stolen dogs. As owners and dog lovers, it is up to us to also be responsible when bringing a new dog into our homes. They are not there to just please us. They are thinking, feeling, emotional beings, each with their own unique personality, who deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.