Monday 21 June 2021

Massive increase in pet thefts in Australia during Covid

As is the case in other countries, there has been a massive increase in pet thefts during Covid in Australia. This is confirmed by Anne-Marie in Sydney Australia who is a pet detective specialising in cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, goats, birds, pigs and horses! I don't think she specialises that all!

Attempted theft of a cat on a front porch caught by CCTV
Attempted theft of a cat on a front porch caught by CCTV. I believe this is in the US and the picture is here for illustrative purposes only. Image: CCTV in public domain.

She said that she has always preferred animals to people. A good start if you want to be a committed pet detective. I suppose the reason for the dramatic increase in pet thefts in Australia is the obvious one which is increased demand. When more people want to adopt a cat or dog, let's say, demand goes up and if supply is short it leads to criminality. People who have lost work during Covid saw an opportunity to make money Anne-Marie said. So, these are casual pet thieves who I'd would describe as opportunistic.

Annie-Marie pet detective
Annie-Marie pet detective. Photo: Bill Plummer of The Observer.

And demand for pets, particularly dogs, increased dramatically too because of Covid. It's those long lockdowns that did it. The idle mind and the need for company.

But in the UK, it appears that pet thieves are predominantly members of an organised gang. And if people have lost work because of Covid they might find it harder to purchase a dog and therefore they steal an animal. Or they turn to the black market and purchase a stolen dog. And Anne-Marie says that in Australia, for the first time, shelters are empty and pets have become a commodity.

She is receiving or was receiving 50 enquiries a week. She describes various types of pet theft including planned stealing which normally involves a burglary or trespassing on someone's property. And sometimes a person known to the cat or dog owner steals the animal. Maintenance contractors working in the area or even on the home in question might thieve a pet.

You can see the scenario: you're having your house done up and you go out for a while leaving your dog at home. The contractors finish their work on their last day and take the dog. That would seem to be how it might unfold sometimes. And extraordinarily, sometimes pet-sitters steal the animal they are looking after. It'd be the last pet-sitting job they do though.

Anne-Marie says that there is no one method to deal with pet theft. You have to bring together all the elements such as the breed of the animal if they are purebred, the age, the circumstances and the owner's profile. They also gather information about micro-chipping and whether the animal is collared. The character of the pet is also a factor as it allows Anne-Marie to build up a picture.

She sometimes uses drones which are able to pick up a heat signature. That seems like a very clever idea to me and the use of drones has exploded in various contexts. Part of the role of a pet detective is to manage the emotions of cat and dog owners who are probably invariably utterly distraught. Sometimes they find the animal but they've died. Above all, from the owner's perspective, closure is the key. They want to know what happened. They can then move on.

Source: The Guardian via MSN.

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