Nothing can prepare you for the devastating impact of having your gundog stolen. Here, three victims share their different stories of gundog theft, and how they dealt with this increasingly common crime.
Craig from Essex has been targeted twice by gundog thieves, with two dogs stolen in 2012 and three more in 2013. He managed to retrieve two of them.
“I’m still bitter about the thefts of my dogs, and the group of people responsible for them. The thieves only wanted trained gundogs, not pets, which is why, in the
end, I got the untrained ones back.
“I was very active in hunting down the group of people that stole them. This led
all over the country on more than one occasion because I found that running-dog and terrier-dog men have a very close connection to our traveller groups.
“The first thing one is inclined to do when a dog is stolen is to put a picture on the Internet, along with the name of your dog. I later found out, however, that thieves often use the lost dogs websites to find out your dog’s name, which then helps them to retrain them before they are sold on. I even made the mistake of going on television for 30 seconds, hoping it would help get my dogs back — but I now know that all it did was enable them to be taken further away.
“On the second theft, when three dogs were taken, one of the dogs they stole stopped eating because of stress and she got so thin that she became useless to the thieves, as they could no longer sell her on or breed from her. I later found her shot carcase in the woods behind a traveller site.
“If your dog is later found, you only have a short period of time in which to claim them — usually around 15 days. After that time they can be legally re-homed, and you can’t get them back. One of my dogs was found on a Sunday, and yet it was not posted on any of the dog websites until the following Thursday, which I didn’t see until the Friday, so four days were lost to administration.
“The police in many different counties were helpful — they invested many hours and staff and resources in raiding camps and stopping cars and vans.
“Both of the dogs that I did get back were micro-chipped, but the two separate councils that found them did not manage to scan these. When I finally spotted their pictures online, I then had to buy them back from the councils. You can see why I’m still angry.”
After Dawn’s four-year-old show champion German shorthaired pointer was stolen while walking her dogs in South Yorkshire, she launched a full-scale media campaign and offered a reward of £10,000 for the dog’s safe return. Angel is still missing.
“Angel was a working dog and a show champion by the age of 2½. She achieved her gundog working certificate the week before she was stolen which made her into a full Ch., achieving an ‘excellent’ grading in pointing tests on grouse. She was entered into field trial championships the week she was stolen, aged four. But on top of her working achievements, Angel was my loyal pet, living in the home as part of our family. I spent my weekends working, training or competing with her, and my children also used to compete in junior events with her. She was my ‘once in a lifetime dog’.
“6 December 2012 was the same as any other day — I walked all my dogs at the usual time and place. It was dark, and I saw no one else. I got back to my car just as it was getting light. I put my other three dogs into my car and reached for my dummy bag to do 10 minutes’ training with Angel in the field, as we always did. I assumed she had gone into the field where we train, and so I headed there, expecting to see her on point on a partridge. But Angel was nowhere to be seen.
“As I returned to my car I saw a white Transit van turning round and driving off. I never thought anything of it at the time. For the next four days I and numerous friends walked the area time and time again until the early hours of the morning, whistling and shouting for her.
“I rang the police who initially told me they didn’t deal with dogs, and that I should contact the dog warden. After a couple of days they recorded the disappearance of Angel as a crime, but they were of little help.
“I did not work for 10 weeks after that, sleeping on the sofa in case I missed ‘that’ call. A group was set up on Facebook with people from the show and working communities, and we all pulled together, contacting vet rescue centres, gundog and shooting clubs, putting up posters and giving out cards and leaflets with Angel’s details on. I offered a reward — initially £1,000. After a couple of weeks I raised it to £3,000, then a few weeks later to £10,000 so that I could get more publicity.
“I contacted The Pet Detectives, but they said I had done everything they could do, and probably more.
“Since then I’ve learned that dogs are often taken out of their area and found hundreds of miles away. I’ve spent days going through traveller sites and puppy farms, climbing over fences in the middle of the night, and following people who are known in dog fighting circles. I would not hesitate to go anywhere if there was the remotest chance of my finding Angel there.
“I hadn’t really heard of gundog theft until Angel was taken, but three dogs have been stolen in a 13-month period in the exact place where Angel went missing, including a working cocker 10 months later and, more recently, a Labrador.
“I think the only thing that will help make a lasting difference to gundog crime would be a high-profile prosecution with a long prison sentence to act as a deterrent. Also compulsory microchipping of litters before they leave their breeders, alongside compulsory scanning and checking of chip details by vets before they treat an animal. This would help recover stolen dogs and also make the public aware that they need to check microchips before they purchase an animal, a bit like a hire purchase information check on a car.”
Melanie from Hampshire had her working cocker spaniel Darcy stolen while she and her partner were in the house.
“At around 10:30pm on the night Darcy was taken, we were alerted by one of my dogs barking in the house. We came downstairs and the back door was open, and the rest of our dogs (we have 10) were running around in the garden. We could see two figures at the top of the garden and then a car sped away. When we whistled the dogs up, Darcy was missing.
“Our first feelings were of panic, and fear for the safety of the rest of our dogs. We called the police and they came and took statements, but there wasn’t much they could initially do. Though we’d never seen anyone suspicious lurking around before, there were plenty of rumours going around about who was carrying out dog theft in the area — and where they were being taken — but no actual proof.
“Remarkably, we managed to retrieve Darcy. We had a phone call one day from a young lad who said he thought he had my dog. He said he had seen our advert about Darcy that was published in the fieldsports press and sent me a picture to confirm it was my dog.
“When I asked him how he had come to own Darcy, he said he had been sold the dog from the back of a van for £150 while out walking his own dog in Bristol. So, seven weeks after Darcy was stolen, we drove across the country to retrieve him. Though he didn’t say he wanted any money, I gave the lad £100 for his honesty.”
Have you had a gundog stolen? Share your experience in the comments below