‘Dognapping’ is on the rise in South Africa: tips to help prevent pet theft.

No dogs are immune to theft as they are stolen for a number of reasons; pets that haven’t been neutered or spayed may be sold to puppy mills or backyard breeders, popular or expensive dog breeds are resold and some dogs, particularly power breeds, are sold to dog fighting rings either as a fighter or bait. The financial strain that national lockdown has put us all under in the last few months may encourage more criminal attempts to make money off stolen dogs.

Safety Tips for protecting your dog:

  1. Sterilize your doggie

This not only reduces the chances of unwanted births, but a non-fertile dog discourages dog thieves who are considering breeding them for fighting or for selling. This is especially true for pure-breed pets.

  1. Heard but not seen

If you can ensure your dog cannot be seen by passers-by this may help limit the risks of your dog being stolen. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a good rule of thumb.

  1. Secure your property

The harder it is to gain access to your property, the less likely a thief is to try. This means ensuring your property is fully fenced and gated. You can also consider installing security cameras or a motion sensor. Both could be linked to an armed response service. Most dog thefts take place during the day.

  1. Sleepy time inside

Keep your dog’s inside with you, and thieves cannot snatch them away, even if they manage to get over the fence and past the camera, sensors, and alarm.

  1. No doggie treats from strangers

Train your dog to take food only from humans she knows and trusts. This reduces the chances of a total stranger with ill intent luring her away with a meaty treat.

  1. Use a visible ID

Criminals prefer easy targets and know that a dog that is visibly sporting collar and tag with your contact details on is likely known and loved by a whole community of people and other dogs. A thief might think twice about trying to take such a dog, because it may attract unwanted attention if she is suddenly seen with a stranger. What is more, if your details are clearly showing on your dog, somebody who suspects the dog is stolen can contact you, perhaps even without alerting the thief.

  1. Use professional holiday help.

If you are going away for work or play, employ a trusted and vetted individual to pet sit in your own home. If this is not possible, use only a reputable and respected kennel for safety’s sake.

  1. Always go walkies on a leash.

It is smart to keep your dog on a leash even in areas where this is not required. This way, your dog cannot disappear around the corner straight into the arms of a very charming but speedy thief.

  1. No parking off alone in the car for your pooch.

Not only is it illegal to leave pets untended in a car (on the Garden Route of the Western Cape), if you leave a sought-after dog alone in an untended car anywhere, your pooch could be nabbed while you’re buying bread.

  1. No breed bragging.

Applies to mixed-breed mutts, too. If you share personal info including your dog’s breed, age, beauty, or history with strangers, you are advertising its eligibility for dogfighting or illicit dog breeding. Avoid the chances that a thief may be enticed to snatch your beloved canine by sealing your lips.

Wait, why microchipping?

Microchips are tiny computer chips inserted invisibly under the skin. They contain important details about your dog including your contact details. Microchipping your dog will not prevent the theft but if your dog is stolen or gets lost, it is useful for tracking and tracing. That is because the thief (or new owner’) may attempt to take your four-legged friend to the vet, who should scan for it to determine ownership.

What to do if your dog has been stolen:


Microchipping will not prevent your pet from being stolen, however, should your dog be found it will assist in identifying the pet as yours. A dog collar can be removed but a microchip is permanent. Ensure that all your details are up to date, especially if you are moving to a new house or have changed your contact number. If your pet has been stolen, report the missing dog to the microchip database. Doing so will ensure that you are informed, should someone try to re-register the chip number.


If your animal has been stolen, it is advisable to open a case of theft at the nearest SAPS branch. Animals are personal property and therefore SAPS are legally obliged to open a case in terms of the criminal procedure act of 51 of 1977.


Speed is key – it is vital to get the word out as quick as possible. Make use of social media and any available networks to distribute a clear, recent image of your dog and your contact details.


Be careful of scam artists demanding reward money for the return of your pet. Common scams involve someone phoning to tell you that they have found your dog in a far-off area and need money to transport your dog back to you.


Picture is sourced from (2020). Ten Tips to help prevent dog theft. [online] Available at: [Accessed 03 Dec. 2020].

Blue Security. (2020). ‘DOGNAPPING’: TIPS TO ENSURE YOUR PET’S SAFETY. [online] Available at: [Accessed 03 Dec. 2020].