Dog thefts by criminals who resell the pets for thousands of euros due to increased demand are on the rise in France, police and animal protection agencies have warned.
More than 75,000 dogs are estimated to be stolen every year in France, with thefts becoming more brazen - and happening during the day, regardless of any security cameras or people around.
A spokesperson for the animal protection association la Brigade de protection animale, made up of largely volunteer police and gendarmerie, told Le Figaro: “There aren’t any definite figures to prove it yet, but it’s a catastrophe at the moment.
“Thieves no longer hesitate to cut dog leads in the street, coming into gardens to burgle...There are even contracts out for certain dogs, carried out by certain specialists.”
Dogs have been stolen from cars, from outside shops, while walking on leads, and private gardens.
Another police source said: “We are often seeing these types of thefts: dogs represent easy money for these little criminals.
“Dog thefts aren’t new, but the brutality we are now seeing is unprecedented.”
The theft of a pet in France is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to €45,000.
Nathalie, one of the managers of the missing animals Facebook page Alerte Disparitions Animaux (ADA), said: “Since the beginning of this year, we’ve had around 150 reports, compared to 90 for the whole of 2018.”
There are ADA pages for most departments in France.
Rising demand for dogs over the past year has caused prices to soar and made the illegal resale of the animals a more attractive option for criminals.
Parisian pet store Dog Club told Le Figaro that a chihuahua can cost between €1,500-€3,000 each, as a conservative estimate.
Laura Panier, a volunteer worker at the association Animal’s Planet, which has investigated more than 7,000 dog disappearances, said that resale prices on websites such as Le Bon Coin can reach many thousands more.
She said: “When it comes to puppies, litters, it can even reach €10,000 depending on the breed.”
Some rare breeds are being listed for as much as €15,000 per dog.
La Brigade de protection animale said that very young dogs are less likely to have been microchipped, “so they are easier to resell” as their rightful, original owner cannot be identified.
Advice for puppy owners
The ADA association warns that pet owners must take care when walking their dogs and to keep them on a lead, and not leave them alone.
Owners must also ensure that they microchip and ID their dogs as soon as possible, and sterilise them too, if they have no intention of using them to breed puppies.
In France, identification of your dog is mandatory by law, and the register is held by I-CAD (identification des carnivores domestiques). The penalty for having a non-identified pet is a fine of €750.
Registering your cat or dog in France also sees it listed on the Fichier national d’identification des carnivores domestiques (FNICD), which is the only way to officially link the pet to its owner.
In case of theft, this makes it much more likely the pet will be found and reunited with its rightful owner.
Unscrupulous or unaware pet owners can also unwittingly perpetuate the stolen pet trade, by paying artificially high and inflated prices for dogs, or by failing to check the background of the animal.
When buying a puppy in France, would-be owners must check:
- The age of the dog (they must be 8-10 weeks before taking them home)
- The seller’s registration with LOF (central dog pedigree register Livre des Origines Français) if applicable, and if so, their animal’s registration number, the registration number of the mother, and the number of animals in a litter
- The identification number of the puppy, if registered, and a certificate of proof from I-CAD
When buying a puppy, you should ideally meet the animals at home before purchase, and see them in their litter, with their mother, and if possible, their father.
The seller or breeder must be happy for you to ask questions about the origin of the dog, show proof of them being well looked after, and be happy to let you meet the mother.
Rescue dogs must always be rescued from a proper shelter, belonging to an agency such as la Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA).
As soon as owners have taken the puppy home, they must:
- Identify the animal with a microchip or identification tattoo done by a vet or specialist if this has not yet been done
- Register the dog with I-CAD (your vet may do this as part of the ID process) if not yet done
If your pet is stolen, you can alert the website chien-perdu.org, and publish an alert for free. You can also contact the Facebook group above. When/if the dog is found, you can then also update the advert.
In France, 25% of people own a dog, figures from the ministry of agriculture show.
(MAP: Lefigaro.fr )
Can I walk my dog on hunting land in France?
Could French pet passports save fees for regular travel with pets?
Pets ‘can catch Covid’ but owners in France told not to panic
France plans ‘dog bite register’ to identify dangerous dogs