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Dog-snatchers – fake news or reason for concern?

Most people will have heard a story of a friend-of-a-friend who knows someone who was approached by men trying to steal their dog. So how concerned do we need to be, and what can we do to stay safe.

By Laura Kingston

This week we had lots of people getting in touch with us about an incident at the seaside village of Seaton Sluice, whereby a woman reportedly was approached in the middle of the day by a man telling her to give him her dog. 

As a young woman, I’m reading more and more across social media that we shouldn’t take our dogs out alone, that men in white vans are patrolling the area looking for dogs to breed and fight. I live alone with my dog, and in the current lockdown, most of us don’t have a choice but to walk our dogs alone. So what should we do? 

We asked Northumbria Police for their advice and were reassured by their response…

“We are aware lots of these are fake reports and there is no evidence of a large increase in dog thefts of this nature. The Seaton Sluice incident has been reported but to say this is a legitimate attempt of a dog snatch could be premature. There is no evidence women are targeted because there is no evidence of large incidents of this nature.”

A statement on the Seaton Sluice incident in particular said:

A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “We can confirm we received a report of a suspicious incident in Seaton Sluice on Wednesday. A dog walker was walking near the Castaways café at about 12.50pm when she alleged a man in a removal van asked for her dog. She then left the area but contacted police concerned that the men were trying to steal her dog. Inquiries to identify the men, and establish if any criminal offences have been committed, are ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact police quoting log: 383 27/01/21.” 

In a culture of fake news and social media scaremongering, how do we know what’s the right approach to take? I thought I would share the steps I’ll be taking to stay as safe as possible without adding more stress and panic to an already stressful way of life right now. 

  • Invest in a good quality extendable lead – with Henry being quite grumpy anyway, and having a habit of walking right in front of cyclists, an extendable lead makes sure I can keep better control of him and don’t have to worry about whether he could get lost or stolen whilst out for a walk. 
  • Make sure your doors are locked, even when you’re in the house – this is good security anyway, but we’ve read about cases down south where dogs have been taken from back gardens and also from opportunistic thieves sneaking into kitchens. Take away the element of chance and make sure your doors are always locked. 
  • If you’re walking your dog alone, try not to go too late at night – we’ve all been there, taking them for a last-minute spin around the block before bed. If possible try to get out before 10.00pm and when walking at night, stick to well-lit areas away from quiet roads and footpaths. 
  • Always have your phone within easy reach – don’t leave it on charge because you’re just popping out for 5 minutes – you never know when you might need it. 
  • Stay alert – I won’t be wearing headphones and I’ll be staying as alert as possible. 

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