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Pet thefts on rise in France: what to do if it happens to your animal

There are 22 million pets in France and they are increasingly being targeted – often to order – by thieves

Animal thefts are on the up since the Covid lockdown Pic: Daisy Daisy / Shutterstock

With Christmas fast approaching French police are bracing themselves for yet more reports of domestic pets being stolen. 

More than 75,000 dogs disappear every year – often to order. And pet thefts are becoming more brazen, even happening during the daytime under the very noses of owners and regardless of security cameras or the presence of people around.

Some breeds of dog are worth up to €15,000. They are taken from cars, from outside shops, in private gardens and even while being walked on leads. 

A spokesperson for the animal protection association (la Brigade de protection animale), made up of largely volunteer police and gendarmerie, told Le Figaro: “It is a catastrophe at the moment.

“Thieves no longer hesitate to cut dog leads in the street, coming into gardens to burgle...There are even contracts out for certain dogs, carried out by certain specialists,” they added.

Animal theft is a fully-fledged crime under French law, according to Le Figaro, which published a feature article on the subject following a rise in incidents since the Covid lockdowns.

It is defined by the Penal Code under the theft of property (Article 311-1).

Read also: Dog thefts more brazen in France as prices rise for rare breeds

What to do if your pet is stolen

First thing is to act quickly and contact the local police or gendarmerie and the I-CAD (the government’s Fichier national d’identification des carnivores domestiques). Please note that only the owner is authorised to do this.

Read also: How do I register my pet with I-CAD in France?

File a complaint with the police or gendarmerie in your area by going to the police station. You can also file a pre-report online. But in order for the latter to be registered as a complaint, you will have to sign the declaration at a police station.

Once you have alerted the police to the disappearance of your dog or cat, the next step depends on whether or not your pet is identified (see below).

You should also make immediate contact with your neighbours. You could try making a poster to alert the neighbourhood. Remember to describe the animal and include a photo and a means of contact, such as a phone number or email address. You can stick these posters in the streets and distribute them in businesses.

Alert the pet identification service (I-CAD) 

If your pet has been previously identified and registered with the I-CAD services in the ‘Fichier national d'identification des carnivores domestiques,’ (the national register of pets) you must inform them of its theft. If your pet is not registered with I-CAD, then register them now. This process is free of charge.

You can register with I-Cad by email contact@i-cad.fr and the subject of your email must be entitled ‘Déclaration de vol’ (Declaration of theft). 

The body of your message must contain the following: 

  1. The animal's identification number. It can be found on the registration card provided by I-CAD following its identification. If you lose this document, your veterinarian can provide you with information.
  2. Its breed.
  3. Your complete contact details.
  4. A copy of the complaint filed with the police or gendarmerie.

By post, to the following address: I-CAD, 112 - 114 avenue Gabriel Péri, 94246 L'Haÿ-les-Roses Cedex. 

Upon receipt of the complete file, I-CAD will register the animal as stolen in its Fichier.

If your stolen pet is anything other than a cat, dog or ferret, you can report its loss to the Fichier national d'identification des animaux d'espèces non domestiques (I-FAP). These pets come under the Nouvel Animal de Compagne (New Animal Companion or NAC) category.

If your stolen animal is not identified with the I-CAD services

Sadly I-CAD cannot do anything for you unless your pet is registered with them.

But there are other websites which allow you to post search ads. For example, you can post a notice on Pet Alert or on Lost Dog.

Speak to a vet or other animal professional

Another thing to consider is asking professionals if they have heard anything. Try your local veterinarians, shelters or animal associations like the SPA (Société protectrice des animaux) near you.

Handy to know

Thanks to GPS, the official Filalapat resource for tracing lost animals allows you to identify veterinarians, pounds and lost pets seen and found in all the areas around you. It also allows you to consult any ads posted by members of the community.

Who can report the theft of an animal?

With the police, only the owner of the pet, or their legal representatives, can file a complaint.

At the I-CAD or I-FAP (Filalapat), only the owner of the animal registered in the national I-CAD or I-FAP file is authorised to make a theft report. No request coming from another person is taken into account.

What are the penalties for stealing a pet?

Theft is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to €45,000 (article 311-3 of the Penal Code).

Theft committed with one or more aggravating circumstances increases the prison sentence to five years and the fine to €75,000 (article 311-4 of the Penal Code).

This is the case, for example, when the theft is intended to fuel the illegal trade in animals, trafficking, or when it is accompanied by violence.

How to protect yourself from pet theft?

In order to protect your pet against theft, owners should respect the identification procedures specified in article L212-10 of the French Rural and Maritime Fishing Code.

This consists of identifying the animal, whatever its age, by electronic chip or tattoo in the national file of identification of domestic animals (I-CAD).

The identification is done by the owner, at their expense. Having your animal identified is essential if you want to combat this growing industry. Obviously this will enable a finder to contact the owner if and when the pet is found.  

Conclusion

To recap, this is what you should do if your pet is stolen:

  1. File a complaint with the nearest police station or gendarmerie.
  2. Inform the I-CAD or the I-FAP of the theft of the animal.
  3. Make a tour of animal professionals in your area.

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