Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Although there is a larger population of pet fish, dogs are the type of pet found in the largest number of households across Australia. Man’s best friend is typically kept for companionship, although many are also used as working dogs, and with a wide range of breeds available, they are kept by people of all ages and by all family types and individuals.
Over the past few years, and especially as a result of the increase in demand for pet dogs during Covid lockdowns, the price of dogs has risen sharply, and this has seen a similarly sharp increase in the number of reported dog thefts and kidnappings. While some parts of the country have introduced specific dog theft laws, in other areas, the theft of a dog is thought of as being the same as the theft of any possession, despite 60% of owners thinking of their cats and dogs as being part of the family.
Because dogs are considered property in some areas, there are no national figures relating to the number of dogs stolen or kidnapped, but we have gathered 12 statistics related to dognapping and dog theft, below.
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12 Australia Dognapping and Dog Theft Statistics to Know in 2023
- There are approximately 6.33 million pet dogs in Australia.
- New South Wales, the Northern Territory, and South Australia have specific dog theft laws.
- In some parts of Australia, dog theft carries a maximum $50,000 fine or 2 years imprisonment.
- Only about a quarter of dognapping cases are resolved.
- In most parts of Australia, it is the law to have dogs microchipped.
- 340 dogs a year are reported stolen in Victoria and New South Wales.
- March 14th is dog theft awareness day.
- Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Chihuahuas are some of the most commonly targeted breeds.
- Dog thefts at least doubled at the start of the Covid pandemic.
- Stolen dogs are sold for as much as $15,000 online.
- There could be as many as 150 organised dog fighting rings across Australia.
- Some pet insurance policies do cover loss by theft.
Dogs in Australia
1. There are approximately 6.33 million pet dogs in Australia
There are nearly 26 million people living in Australia, and the country had a population of 6.33 million dogs in 2021, which means one dog for every four people. The figure rose sharply from the 5.1 million dogs that were owned in 2019: the rise coming as a result of people looking for companionship and even exercise opportunities during Covid lockdowns. Dogs are the most popular pet in the country, in terms of the number of households that they are found in, although there is a larger population of pet fish.
Dognapping and Dog Theft Laws
2. New South Wales, the Northern Territory, and South Australia have specific dog theft laws.
In some parts of the country, dogs and cats are treated as possessions when it comes to the law. This means that thieves that are caught and prosecuted or charged under general theft laws. However, the laws are gradually changing. In New South Wales, the Northern Territory, and South Australia, for example, dog theft is now a separate and specific law with different laws than general theft laws.
3. In some parts of Australia, dog theft carries a maximum $50,000 fine or 2 years imprisonment.
While theft can carry a 10-year maximum imprisonment penalty, new dog theft laws typically carry only a 2-year maximum term. However, dog theft laws also carry a maximum $50,000 fine, which is higher than was previously typical for this type of theft. Lawmakers have stated that because criminals steal dogs in the hope of making a profit, the higher financial fines are likely to have a greater impact.
4. Only about a quarter of dognapping cases are resolved.
Dog theft cases rarely result in the capture of the thief, or their prosecution. Unfortunately, this also means that they rarely result in dogs being reunited with their owners. According to research, only 27% of cases in New South Wales were solved, which means that 73%, or nearly three-quarters, of reported dog theft cases go unsolved.
5. In most parts of Australia, it is the law to have dogs microchipped.
Microchipping can help reunite lost and stolen dogs with their owners. A small chip is placed under the skin, and owner details are registered with a national database. If the dog is lost, the chip can be scanned and owner details found. This can help expedite a reunion between the dog and its owner.
In most parts of Australia, it is the law that dogs should be microchipped by the time they are registered, which needs to happen by the time the dog reaches 3 months of age.
6. 340 dogs a year are reported stolen in Victoria and New South Wales.
There are no national figures for the number of dog thefts and dognapping incidents that occur, but some states and provinces do release figures. In Victoria and New South Wales, there are approximately 340 incidents of dog theft and kidnapping, each year. These two states account for nearly 60% of the country’s population, which means that there are likely to be around 600 dog thefts a year across Australia.
7. March 14th is dog theft awareness day.
Pet theft awareness day is on February 14th, but dogs have their own awareness day. March 14th, every year, is dog theft awareness day around the world. On this day, owners are encouraged to take steps to ensure the safety of their dogs. For example, ensure secure fences and walls around a property and do not leave dogs unattended even for a few minutes.
8. Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Chihuahuas are some of the most commonly targeted breeds.
Typically, purebred and designer hybrid breeds are the most commonly stolen. The most popular breeds with buyers are those that are most likely to be taken and this means that Pugs, French bulldogs, and Chihuahuas are the most likely to be dognapped. Other popular breeds include Staffordshire Bull Terriers, which are popular not only for resale but for use in illegal dog fights.
9. Dog thefts at least doubled at the start of the Covid pandemic.
Covid changed our daily lives in many ways. When lockdowns started in early 2020, many people found themselves at home, rather than going to work. This meant a lot more spare time and for many people, it also meant increased levels of loneliness. This saw the number of dogs purchased increase, and the extra demand for dogs also saw the number of thefts rise. Thefts at least doubled at the start of the pandemic, according to some sources.
10. Stolen dogs are sold for as much as $15,000 online.
The most common reason for stealing dogs is to resell them for profit and according to some sources, including dog theft investigators, stolen dogs can be resold for as much as $15,000. It is especially common for thieves to place online ads to attract potential buyers.
11. There could be as many as 150 organised dog fighting rings across Australia.
(Sydney Vet Specialists)
Another common reason for dog theft is to put the dogs into illegal fights. Although some local police forces say that they have no knowledge of illegal fighting rings, some experts believe that there could be as many as 150 organised dog fighting rings across the country, which means that there is high demand for potential fighting dogs.
12. Some pet insurance policies do cover loss by theft.
As well as the emotional loss that owners face when their dog is stolen, there is a financial cost. Considering some breeds can cost as much as $10,000 for a purebred puppy, owners are left substantially out of pocket if their prized pup is taken from them and not returned. Owners worried about this kind of loss will need to look for specific policies, but there are dog insurance policies that will cover the financial loss incurred by the theft or kidnapping of a dog.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dognapping and Dog Theft
What Is the Sentence for Dog Theft?
The sentence for dog theft does vary according to where the offence is committed or tried. In those areas where dog theft is a specific crime, it carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 2 years, and there is a maximum fine of up to $50,000. In other areas, there is a maximum prison sentence of up to 2 years and a typical fine of $550. (Mondaq)
What Dogs Get Stolen the Most?
The most commonly stolen dog breeds are purebred breeds that are in high demand. This includes breeds like Pugs and French bulldogs. Other breeds commonly stolen are those that are considered suitable for fighting, including Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
Why Are Dogs Stolen?
Dogs are typically stolen to be sold for profit by the thief, while some are stolen for illegal dog fighting. Dognapping incidents may also see the original owner asked to pay a ransom to secure the release of their dog.
What Are the Chances of Getting a Stolen Dog Back?
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of dog thefts and dognapping incidents are solved. Around a quarter of incidents in New South Wales are ever solved, and it is likely that the rest of the country has similar rates.
Dogs are the most popular pet in Australia, and the number of pet dogs rose sharply during Covid, along with the prices of the most popular breeds. Unfortunately, this also saw an increase in the number of thefts and dognapping incidents. Dogs are resold, used for dog fighting, or ransomed back to their original owners. While laws are changing and some areas now consider dog theft a separate crime from general theft, other states still treat it as a form of general theft.
Featured Image Credit: Daisy Daisy, Shutterstock