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PLEASE NOTE THAT IF YOU ARE FACED WITH VIOLENCE THEN IT IS IMPERATIVE TO STEP BACK. THIEVES CAN BE JUST OPPORTUNISTS LOOKING FOR AN EASY SOURCE OF MONEY, BUT THEY CAN ALSO BE ARMED CRIMINALS ACTING IN A LARGE GANG
First of all, lets get something straight. A thief will normally try not steal when the owner is present simply because its easier to get away without being spotted. But thieves are sometimes braver, or stupider, with the result that the owner or someone else may well be around or even holding onto the dog when an attempted theft takes place.
You will see as we work though this page that there are many things that CAN be done to help recover a dog whether the thief is present or not; and probably more things than you would expect!
Clearly prevention is always better than a cure and the list of some good preventative measures are listed later.
A Scenario: Typical Theft from a Public Place
To help understand anti-theft tactics, first of all lets look at a scenario where the thief (or thieves) have just taken your dog, or are just about to take your dog from you.
As the owner, without any training or foresight, there isn’t much you can do if you aren’t prepared other than to manage your own feelings of shock and fear. Maybe you will be able to shout, struggle, maybe not. Maybe you will run in the opposite direction or freeze. Others might come to your aid if you are lucky. Someone might try and call the police or a friend.
But the thief will most likely get away without too much trouble and the dog will be gone. Even though it is probably chipped who knows how long it will take to be identified, if ever. The police aren’t likely to do much, the dog warden might offer some advice, but it will take a long time before they will get there. Your special friend that has become part of your family is gone, probably forever.
A Scenario: How it Could End Better
Now, let us look at a slightly different scenario, where people are more prepared.
The scenario is that your local area has decided to be proactive, more prepared for dog theft and some dog owners have learned some tips and tricks and got some basic gear together. So before thieves even approach the dog there is a ZONE of PROTECTION around the area.
A Scenario: Be A Visible Threat
The thieves spot items on the more prepared owner that make them wary, such as a lanyard they know carries a whistle, and identifies them as part of an anti dog-theft group. There possibly a DogHorn high viz jacket is visible in the area that signifies a person willing and ready to intervene in the event of a dog theft. There may be signs up advertising a dogwatch area.
Let’s stay with the second scenario. Now, undeterred, the thief gets closer to the dog, trying to be friendly. The owner now knows to be a little suspicious, she doesn’t know this person so she holds her whistle in a spare hand, if necessary in her mouth. The thief persists and maybe she spots someone else lingering around that is suspicious. The dog owner knows she has a very loud “rape” alarm to hand, a red dye canister (pepper spray equivalent) in her coat pocket or High Viz jacket. According to the training video she watched a while ago, she gets them ready.
With a rape alarm going off, a person screaming loudly, dogs barking, and criminal dye spray in hand a thief may well back away, especially if there are other members of the public around.
Summon Assistance with Sound
But let us suppose the owner doesn’t have anything to assist and can only shout for help. Another, prepared person (a dog responder as we call it) is within hearing distance or sight of what is going on, has seen a training video and also knows the correct tactics AND IS PREPARED WITH THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT, then they can raise the attention of anyone else in the area, summing further help, identify thieves and possibly force thieves to release the dog.
We have proven that under suitable conditions, through the speed of sound, if there are people within hearing distance then a large area can be alerted to a dog theft. If that sound has a code (such as the DogHorn code) then it can be transmitted on anything … whistles, airhorns, car horns etc. A radius of 1 to 3 sq km can be alerted within 30 seconds and it is most likely that a thief will still be in that zone and be able to be identified and possibly tracked.
In this scenario the chances of having a good outcome are significantly higher than in the first scenario, purely by being prepared as a dog owner and a dog responder.
Focus Outward, Not Inwards
Now a little explanation about human behaviour during a crisis such as a dog theft. The typical reaction following a theft is that members of the public go towards the owner in distress in order to ask, assist, help, reassure etc. However we have proven through research that the owner in distress would much prefer a “good samaritan”, dog responder or helper, having identified a possible theft, to look outwards from the incident location and look for clues to identify thieves and their route of escape. Typically helpers waste precious minutes consoling a victim, ringing the police, talking to others when actually many different, productive, things can be done instead.
So the key is to focus outwards from the theft area and turn attention to where thieves have gone.
But lets try a systematically identify some of the tactics and strategies that can be used to improve the overall chances. These are just some of the tactics that can be used to prevent a theft, stall thieves and possibly recover a dog.
(It is worth staying here that if an attempt fails, they are still dog thieves and immediate follow up action could be appropriate to prevent other dogs being stolen. Thieves tend to cruise around an area looking for targets and failing with one will not stop them trying 100 yards down the road on someone else. )
As The Victim, What You Can Do Before an Attack
- Have ANTI-THEFT EQUIPMENT to hand (Rape Alarm, Deterrent Spray, Torch, Loud Whistle, Mobile Phone etc)
- Know where to STORE THEM and have them to hand for immediate use.
- Know how to use them and how to act. Know things like the PAWS code.
- Be SEEN as having Anti-Theft Deterrent Methods to hand. (Have the right Clothing)
- Do not think that your dog won’t be a target for thieves.
- Keep your dog on a lead or in sight
- Be wary of unusual people, unusual vehicles, unusual sounds
- Be especially wary when you are on your own or at night
- Encourage others to form part of a dog support group that can help with dog theft.
Remember, a thief wants to get your dog as easily as possible, not you. It is up to you how much of a struggle you want to put up and how much your survival instincts kick in. Depending on how you feel at the time it would be just as right to hand your dog over without a fuss as it would be to fight the thief with whatever you have.
NOTE: If a suspect person is approaching you, you may wonder if an attempted dog theft is about to happen, or a personal attack is about to happen. The answer is to treat both the same, but bear in mind that a woman with a dog is much less likely to be attacked personally than a woman on her own; it is much more likely to be an attack for the dog
As The Victim, What You Can Do During an Attack : The Basics
- Recall your dog if possible, get it on a lead. Use treats.
- Keep the suspect in view and watch out for others that might be an assistant
- If a suspect approaches, step backwards slowly if possible. This buys you time.
- You will automatically assess whether to Stay, Fight or Run. If you can’t run then:
- Move slowly away from hard or dangerous surfaces, but avoid tripping and still keep facing the suspect. You do not want to be taken by surprise.
- If your dog is aggressive and on a lead, encourage it to attack. If it isn’t then try and get as much distance between it and the suspect.
- Hold your dog’s lead in your non-dominant hand, leaving your dominant hand (normally right hand) free for defence/protection.
- Use only what physical means you can to hold onto the dog without getting injured yourself.
- If your dog is taken, shout and raise the alarm as soon as the thief is out of range of hurting you (probably just a few metres away and walking away from you), Then you can raise the alarm, shout, and get help.
As The Victim, What You Can Do Approaching an Attack : Super Ready
- Use all of the BASIC tactics above, but also:
- Have the Anti-Attack gear ready in an unzipped pocket by your dominant hand (normally right hand).
- Know what to do by reading this and watching relevant anti-theft videos
- If someone suspicious approaches, turn towards them. Stand tall. Note everything you can about the person. Face, hair, voice, stature, clothing, gait etc. Anything unusual. These are your few seconds to assess whether a person is friendly or a threat, and to remember them if they are. Most likely they will be a friendly stranger, but insticts will soon tell you if they are something worse.
- As in the BASICS, put your dogs lead in your left (or non-dominant) hand.
- As a threat becomes more prevalent, also put the Spray in your left (or non dominant) hand
- Raise the DogHorn Whistle to your mouth
- Find the Rape Alarm Sounder in your pocket, be ready to activate it
- If the thief/attacker gets closer, deploy the Rape Alarm Sounder and point it towards the attacker. This way it is the most painful and the most distracting for the thief/attacker.
As The Victim, What You Can Do DURING an Attack
- If the thief/attacker continues, then you know this situation is for real. You now have a choice depending on the size and aggressiveness of the thief, and whether he has assistants, to continue defending or to submit and hand the dog over.
- If you choose to continue defending, then, still facing the thief/attacker, drop the Rape Alarm to the ground and switch to holding the Spray Dye in your dominant hand at arms length, pointing towards the attacker’s face. Depress and hold. (If possible, lift your dog and hold it close; this way the attacker’s face will be focussed on the dog, making it easier for you to hit the thief with the spray.)
- Note that the Rape Alarm we recommend is also a hard, palm sized object with hard corners that can be used as an effective weapon if necessary, Whilst we would recommend NOT to cause an aggressor any pain, this is an option should you choose to use it.
- It is also possible to spray your dog. The spray we use is non toxic so this action is safe for your dog. However a dog that has been sprayed with red dye is a very high risk for a thief, not only because it can be easily identified and be completely unsellable, but the thieves and handlers will also become contaminated. The dye will remain for active for some time. ( sorry; you will have a mess to clear up and a red dog, but you will still have your dog, and it will be safe from a horrible future).
As The Victim, What You Can Do JUST AFTER an Attack
- If the thief gets the dog OR NOT then make as much sound as possible. Shout “Dog Thief”, whistle, lift the rape alarm sounder high (sound will travel further)
- Wave your arms. Get attention and point to where the thief has gone. This will help tell others what is going on and what to do. Getting others involved is crucial in identifying and stopping/arresting thieves and stopping them from going on straight away to target other dogs in the area.
- Now is the time to Image/video the area using a mobile phone (whole area / car parks etc). Getting this kind of data can help so much after a theft for so many reasons. (Recall, public awareness, timings, witnesses etc).
- Or consider following the thieves at a safe distance on foot or in a car and call the police if possible
- Or Engage other members of the public to help assist as soon as possible and tell them how to help.
- Or Call a prearranged Whattsapp or text group to gather further assistance in the event of an emergency.
As A Responder, What Can You Do: Basics
If you think about it, YOU are more likely to be a WITNESS to a dog theft (or the period just after a dog theft), than to experience one yourself. You can therefore be ready to help others, in the hope that they would help you too
A Responder / Witness has exactly the same tactical options as the Victim has, in that the training, the equipment and the clothing are all the same, but there area few differences;
- The responder / witness might be in a place that is closer to the thief, or even ahead of the thief’s escape.
- The Responder / Witness might be stronger / more physically able to intervene.
- Not suffering from shock or incapacitation the Responder / Witness might be more clear thinking.
- The Responder / Witness might have the right anti-theft equipment to hand, including a mobile phone.
- The Responder / Witness might also be close to their car and able to engage mobile tactics.
As a result a Responder / Witness can
- Raise the sound alarm (eg The DogHorn Alarm) on anything possible (Whistle, shouting, car horn, Rape Alarm)
- Video a thief or their vehicle. GET A VEHICLE DESCRIPTION AND NUMBER
- Slow dow a thief with “Is that your dog?, What is its name etc”
- Conduct any of the tactics below called “Raising the Game”
As A Responder, Raising the Game
Hopefully a Responder / Witness will have the right anti-theft equipment to hand.
- Challenge the thief with Ready Spray, from a safe distance. Shout “LET THE DOG GO!”
- Be prepared to spray the thief or the dog, but have an escape route if the thief (or assistant) becomes aggressive
- It is also possible to spray the thieves vehicle. The windscreen, door handles and rear doors are good zones.
- If the thieves have got away, stop another road user and request them to “Follow that dog thief and blow your horn at it”
- Get in a car and follow the thieves yourself, if possible with someone else who can video / make a call to the police. (see “Covert” and “Active” following below)
Following a vehicle
COVERT MODE. In this mode you will get be following from a discreet distance (50m or more) possibly with another car between you and the vehicle. Your intention is to observe, gather evidence and get assistance WITHOUT interacting with the thieves in any way.
ACTIVE MODE. In this mode you are aiming to let the thieves know that they have been identified and to rapidly raise local awareness and assistance.
THIS MODE IS RISKIER, but it is also a mode that many people would choose, hence we are providing restricted advice rather than endorsing all-out conforontation. Follow more closely but without harassing or “tail gating”. Use lights and horns to indicate that that the thief and vehicle have been identified, but only for a while ( a minute). Don’t aggravate, do give the thieves time to assess the situation themselves. If they stop, you stop at a safe distance in FRONT of them, so you have a good escape route. Do NOT get out of your car and keep your windows closed. Observe. Be ready for a dog being released onto the roadside
Intercepting a Vehicle
Remember that a thief may be out for the day (or night) looking for dogs. A good intervention could stop other dogs being stolen or recover dogs already stolen that day.
With an effective WhatsApp or Text group, responders can throw down a wide network of surveillance and get AHEAD of the thieves if they know what to look for.
Following many discussion with dog owners their opinions are generally very strong about wanting to follow and intervene to recover their own stolen dog or someone else stolen dog. We have often heard the term “I would go Liam Neeson to get my dog back” meaning they would attempt to stop, barricade, block or get into a physical altercation with thieves. We CANNOT condone this level of action as it carries a high risk of harm. Thieves can be violent, carry weapons or have violent dogs themselves. The highest level of action we can condone is the use of spray and to follow a vehicle at a safe distance, in the hope that the thieves come to understand that “The Game Is Up” and release a dog.
PREVENTION IS ALWAYS BETTER