Dog thefts have become “epidemic”, according to the founder of the UK’s leading missing dog website.

Jayne Hayes, founder of doglost.co.uk, told Farmers Weekly there has been a surge in dog thefts in recent months – especially of highly trained and very valuable gundogs.

“There’s been a huge increase in missing dogs reported on the site,” she said, “especially cocker spaniels and springer spaniels. These people know exactly where they’re going and they’re after trained gundogs.”

A total of 41 English springer spaniels were reported missing on doglost.co.uk in January this year alone – up 37% on 2012. According to Jayne, thieves can frequently make £3,000 from the sale of a highly trained dog and they can often steal up to four in one night.

“When you’re talking about that kind of money, during a recession, it’s going to happen,” she said.

Once a dog has been stolen, it’s notoriously difficult to get a successful conviction, even when thieves are stopped mid-theft.

“Even if they’re caught red-handed they just tell police the dog approached them,” explained Jane. “Dogs are the only property that can walk – it’s the basis of a lot of disputes.”

Jayne also warned that thieves frequently make a return visit, so just because you’ve been targeted once, don’t assume it won’t happen again.

Jayne’s advice for reducing dog thefts:

1. ASK where dogs are from

“Often buyers are getting trained gundogs for country sports. The problem is that they buy dogs on performance only, without questioning their origin. Always ask where the dog came from.”

2. MICROCHIP your dog

“These dogs are so well-trained that many owners think they don’t need to microchip them, because the dog won’t leave their side. Not much help when they’re snatched from the kennels.”

3. SECURE property

“The biggest deterrent to thieves is an unexpected sound. Put a redundant cow bell on the gate – you’ll be surprised how effective it is.”

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