Some breeds are at a higher risk than others due to their intrinsic value. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

The Animal Welfare Society and the Cape of Good Hope SPCA  have noticed an increase in the number of pets being reported as lost or missing with their owners often alleging that their pets have been stolen.

This trend may be due to an increased number of pets owners using social media as a means of alerting the public to their loss and the post then going viral.

In 2012 the City of Cape Town launched a “Pet Finder” website where individuals and organizations could log a pet as lost or found. 

This should be any pet owners first point of call when their pet goes missing followed by calls or e mails to their local animal welfare organisations that operate Pounds (such as ourselves) and local veterinary practices most of which offer temporary sanctuary to stray animals.

The law defines animals as property or possessions so anyone whose pet goes missing should also immediately report the matter to the SA Police who are obliged to open up a theft docket.

Some breeds are at a higher risk than others due to their intrinsic value.   

Microchips:

Microchips are by themselves not a Silver Bullet but there is no denying their benefits and we would strongly advocate that all pet owners get their pets microchipped with a reputable microchip.

Pedigreed dog’s are expensive. Some rare and exotic breeds sell for thousands of rands - tipping the risk/reward scale in favor of the criminal who would see an easy picking to make a quick buck.

Take a picture of your pet:

The animal shelters suggest that pet owners take regular photographs of their pets and store them on their phone as this will significantly strengthen any future claims of entitlement and ownership.

Dog theft is not confined to theft from homes or vehicles  – the crime has reached a sophisticated level with criminals targeting Pounds to falsely claim pets - so the more proof of ownership one can present the better.

Sterilising pets:

Thieves are less likely to steal a neutered or spayed pet as the pet has no breeding value. Sterilised pets are also less likely to stray sometimes causing them to land up in the wrong hands.

The shelters strongly discourage pet owners from posting financial rewards and acceding to ransom demands as this serves as an incentive and fuels the fire.

Livestock theft (cattle rustling) is probably an even bigger challenge. It has become an organized crime so anyone owning farm or production animals is also advised to get their animals branded or tattooed.

Finders also need to note that in terms of South African law finders does not equal keepers. Anyone who finds a stray animal is obliged to surrender it to their nearest Pound which has a proper mandate to deal with stray animals.

Anyone buying a pet or livestock should be weary of a too good to be true bargain as they could end up being charged for buying and being in possession of stolen property.