Call the Police if your Dog is Stolen + 30 Tips

Dog theft is something no dog owner wants to imagine, but what should you do if your dog is stolen? Can you call the police? Follow these 30 tips if you believe pet theft occurred.


Katie Abendroth

3/14/20247 min read

what to do if your dog is missing or stolen
what to do if your dog is missing or stolen

Dog Theft Awareness Day is March 14 in the U.K. This tragic event is something no dog owner wants to imagine, but what should you do if your dog is stolen? Can you call the police? Follow these 30 tips if your dog is stolen or you believe pet theft occurred.


Dog Theft Awareness Day (March 14 U.K.) and Pet Theft Awareness Day (February 14 U.S.A.) both raise awareness for this alarming and rising trend. In 2023, around 2,290 dogs were stolen in the U.K., while around 2 million dogs are stolen in the U.S.A.

Certain breeds are more likely to be stolen than others. Sadly, the 3 most common stolen breeds are:

  • French Bulldogs

  • Yorkshire Terriers

  • Chihuahuas

If you face this frightening situation, here are 30 steps to take in the first few days.

First Hour if Your Dog is Stolen

1. Check Hidden Spots

The best case scenario is your dog is not stolen, but scared. If there were fireworks or other triggers for your dog’s anxiety, they may be hiding.

Once, during a thunderstorm, we could not find our dachshund. We later found him in the clothes dryer, a spot he had never used before. So check all nooks and crannies in your home for good measure.

2. Stay Calm

If your dog is stolen, or you believe dog theft occurred, stay calm. If you have kids, they will mirror your energy, so project confidence that you can handle this situation and follow the steps below.

3. Check Cameras

Do you have security cameras on your property? Or a doorbell camera? Check all potential camera sources if you did not witness theft, but think your dog may have been stolen. Cameras will also give you a visual image to share with police (next step).

First 24 Hours if Your Dog is Stolen

4. File a Police Report

Pets are your property, so yes you can call the police if you dog is stolen. Filing a police report gives you a paper trail of ownership when your dog is found. Ask for a report number.

It is unrealistic to expect police departments to use tremendous resources looking for your pet, but they can help document your concern and take a description of the thief if you have one. They may also be aware of dog theft rings in the area.

5. Social Media Posts

Start posting on social media for help. Include recent pictures of your pet and make posts shareable. Be sure to post across platforms to connect with different ages, including NextDoor, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

If you don’t have accounts on these platforms, contact neighbors who can help. Post to multiple public pages on Facebook.

6. Contact Neighbors

Do contact your neighbors right away if your dog is missing. Once, we took in a dog we believed to be a stray and it belonged to a neighbor who was looking for it. If you cannot find your dog, reach out to neighbors and ask them to contact other neighbors you may not know.

7. Drive Around But Think Like a Dog

If your dog is reactive, a thief may quickly decide to let them go. If you drive around each street looking for them, think like a dog.

If they got out, they will usually towards a grassy or wooded area. Think about what lush landscapes or trails are nearby, and whether your dog might be headed that way.

Image by wirestock on Freepik

First 48 Hours if Your Dog is Stolen

8. Call Animal Control

Local animal control can partner with law enforcement in the event that your dog is picked up as missing or stray. A thief may drop off your dog if there is a lot of media attention, so it is worth contacting animal control, even if you have an idea of who may have taken your dog.

9. Ask Neighbors for Security Footage

Often your neighbors have security cameras and these may offer different angles or wider street views than your own. Ask neighbors to check their camera footage for assistance if your dog is stolen or missing.

10. Contact Local Vets

In your area, vets field calls and encounter lots of animals. Raising their awareness that your dog is stolen may help find your pup. Vets also typically have a place where you can post flyers for people to see to help find your dog.

11. Update Microchip Info

Even if your dog is microchipped, it is easy to forget to update information. However, if your dog is stolen remember to log into the website of your microchip company within the first two days and make sure your contact info is current.

12. Organize Pet Records

Have your records ready and available, including your pets immunizations, pictures, microchip number, and birth record if possible. This will help you establish ownership of your pet if they are found and someone else claims to be the owner.

First Week if Your Dog is Stolen

13. Create Flyers

It sounds old school, but posting paper flyers is a tried and true method of finding a missing dog. It raises awareness and is seen by lots of people in high traffic areas, even if they are not on social media. This is also a task kids can help with at home if your dog is stolen.

14. Contact Local Rescues if Your Dog is Stolen

In addition to contacting veterinarians and animal control, individually contact rescue groups in your region. This is especially important if your dog does not have a microchip, as thieves may have sold your dog to someone else who later surrenders them.

15. Check Marketplaces for Pets

The biggest motivation for pet theft is to resell the animals to an unsuspecting buyer. So check online marketplaces such as Facebook, Craigslist, and Instagram. However, be wary of posts and scammers (see tip #25).

16. Hire a Lawyer

Once you are certain your dog is stolen, and not missing, you may want to contact an attorney. This is especially important if you know the person who has your dog, and it is a domestic or ownership dispute. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal path to reclaiming your dog.

First 2 Weeks if Your Dog is Stolen

17. Join a Pet Loss Community

There are lots of online communities for pet loss and pet theft. Join them to learn tips that owners are using to find their dogs and to heal from the deep grief of having a dog stolen.

18. Grief Counseling

If you dog is stolen, you will experience a unique type of grief. Grief counseling is essential to help you navigate the mixed emotions and uncertainty that pet theft can cause. Your employer may even grant pet bereavement leave for a few days while you are looking for your dog.

19. Don’t Give Up if Your Dog is Stolen

If your dog is not found right away, keep searching. Pets may be reclaimed months or years down the road at a rescue shelter. Or, if there is a lot of media attention, thieves may surrender them to a local shelter. Don’t lose hope.

Photo credit EtsyUK

20. Keep Their Food and Leash

In the event that you are able to reclaim your dog, you will need their essentials on hand. Be sure to keep their food and leash or harness, so that you can be ready when they come home.

21. Practice Self-Care

With the uncertainty of a missing dog, it is easy to let self-care go. Try to manage your stress by getting enough sleep, walking, eating well, and finding a counselor. There are also monthly dog loss support meetings online that may discuss coping skills.

22. Update Flyers

Try to replace flyers every 2-4 weeks if they are posted outdoors. You can laminate the flyers for better protection against the elements, but if not be sure to update them around town. Keep a record of where you posted them.

23. Give Amazon/Mail Carriers Flyers

Always have a stack of flyers about your dog printed and ready to hand out. Anytime you receive an Amazon or Fed-Ex package, or mail, give the carrier a flyer.

These service people are often driving the same routes each day and recognize familiar and new dogs. Since dogs may react to parcel drivers, they are likely to remember seeing your dog if it is nearby.

Things to Avoid if Your Dog is Stolen

24. Do Not Confront a Thief

Whether you know them or not, it is best not to confront a dog thief. The stakes are too high for your safety. It is better to contact law enforcement if you don’t know the person or an attorney if you do know them.

25. Beware of Scammers if Your Dog is Stolen

If your dog is stolen, you are highly vulnerable to scammers. Since you are putting your contact information out for everyone to see, people may contact you with false information.

Be sure to contact the police about meeting someone who claims to have your dog, or meet at a police station for your own safety. Do NOT go to someone’s house alone or pay them any money without reclaiming your dog.

26. Don’t Leave Dogs in a Vehicle

Dogs are most likely to get stolen when they are unattended. Since dogs need a window cracked for fresh air, cars are prime targets for stealing a dog.

Leaving your dog in the car is unsafe for other reasons, like the soaring temperatures inside, but don’t make it easy on a dognapper by leaving your dog in the car.


27. Microchipping

Microchipping is the best way to reclaim ownership of your dog if they are found or surrendered. Always keep your contact information updated and microchip any pet you adopt.

28. GPS Trackers

There are GPS trackers that attach to collars and these are excellent tools if your dog is missing or stolen. The thief may not realize the dog has a GPS tracker on, giving your valuable insight into where they headed.

29. Cameras

Installing security cameras on your house or doorbell is an important and easy safety measure to take. Cameras have become increasingly affordable and wireless, making them easy to install.

30. Leash Walk

Always walk your dog on a leash so they are less likely to be separated from you. Dog theft is often a matter of convenience, and keeping your dog on a lead offers protection.

This video offers more tips about preventing dog theft including not tying them outside of stores.


To this point in my dog ownership journey, I have not had to face the uncertainty and anxiety of this type of dog loss. However, this unique grief requires calm, resilience, and community.

I hope these tips help you create an action plan and wish that everyone who is looking for their fur baby finds them soon.

In a hurry? Download PDF step-by-step guide to save for later.