Dog theft by criminals who resell pets for thousands of euros due to increased demand is on the rise in France, police and animal welfare authorities warn.
It is estimated that more than 75,000 dogs are stolen in France each year, with thefts growing bolder – and this during the day, regardless of surveillance cameras or people nearby.
A spokesman for the animal welfare organization la Brigade de protection animale, consisting mainly of voluntary police officers and gendarmerie, told Le figaro: “There are still no clear figures to prove it, but at the moment it is a disaster.
“Thieves no longer hesitate to cut dog leashes in the street, break into gardens … There are even contracts for certain dogs that are carried out by certain specialists.”
Dogs have been stolen from cars, outside of shops, while walking on a leash, and in private gardens.
Another police source said, “We see this type of theft a lot: dogs are easy money for these little criminals.
“Dog theft is not new, but the brutality we are witnessing now is unprecedented.”
Theft of a pet is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 45,000 euros in France.
Nathalie, one of the managers of the Facebook page Alerte Disparitions Animaux (ADA), the missing animals, said: “We have received around 150 reports since the beginning of this year, compared to 90 in 2018 as a whole.”
There are ADA pages for most of the departments in France.
The increasing demand for dogs over the past year has pushed prices up and made illegal reselling of the animals more attractive to criminals.
The Parisian pet shop Dog Club told Le Figaro that, as a conservative estimate, a Chihuahua can cost between 1,500 and 3,000 euros each.
Laura Panier, a volunteer with Animal’s Planet, which has examined more than 7,000 disappeared dogs, said resale prices on sites like Le Bon Coin can reach many thousands more.
She said: “When it comes to puppies and litters, it can even be up to 10,000 euros, depending on the breed.”
Some rare breeds are listed for up to € 15,000 per dog.
La Brigade de protection animale said that very young dogs were less likely to have been microchipped “so that they could be more easily resold” as their rightful, original owner could not be identified.
Tips for puppy owners
The ADA Association warns that pet owners should be careful when walking their dogs and keep them on a leash and not leave them alone.
Owners also need to ensure that they microchip and identify their dogs as soon as possible and also sterilize them if they do not intend to use them to breed puppies.
In France, identification of your dog is required by law and the registry is kept by I-CAD (identification des carnivores domestiques). The fine for keeping an unidentified pet is € 750.
If you register your cat or dog in France, he will also be registered on the Fichier national d’identification des carnivores domestiques (FNICD), which is the only way to officially link the pet to its owner.
This increases the likelihood that in the event of theft, the pet will be found and reunited with its rightful owner.
Unscrupulous or unconscious pet owners can also unwittingly keep the stolen pet trade going by paying artificially high and inflated prices for dogs or by not checking the animal’s background.
Read more: Animal welfare: Animal buyers in France need a certificate
When buying a puppy in France, potential owners must check the following:
- The age of the dog (it must be 8-10 weeks old before being taken home)
- The seller’s registration with the LOF (Central Dog Pedigree Register Livre des Origines Français), if applicable, the registration number of the animal, the registration number of the mother and the number of animals in a litter
- The puppy’s identification number, if registered, and proof of I-CAD
When buying puppies, you should ideally meet the animals at home before buying them and see them in the litter, with their mother and, if possible, their father.
The seller or breeder must be happy if you ask questions about the dog’s origin, provide evidence of the good care and enjoy getting to know the mother.
Rescue dogs must always be rescued from a suitable shelter owned by an agency such as Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA).
Once the owners have taken the puppy home, they must:
- Identify the animal with a microchip or an identification tattoo from a veterinarian or specialist if you haven’t already
- Register the dog with I-CAD (your vet can do this as part of the ID process) if you haven’t already
If your pet is stolen, you can notify the website chien-perdu.org, and post a notification for free. You can also contact the above Facebook group. If / when the dog is found, you can also update the display.
In France, 25% of people own a dog, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture.
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