Pet theft is on the rise across the UK, fuelled by a boom in the price of pedigree puppies. Between March and August 2020, the Kennel Club saw a 161% increase in puppy searches via its website, and Pets4Homes recorded a 281% increase in searches for kittens for sales compared to 2019.
Thieves have been keen to cash in on the new trend by stealing pets to resell at a premium or to use for breeding purposes. The 'low risk, high reward' nature of pet theft has made it a comparatively easy crime to execute, and with cases soaring, owners are being warned to check their insurance policies to make sure they are covered for the worst-case scenario.
Not all pet insurance policies include cover for loss or theft as standard though and you may need to purchase this as an optional extra. Check your policy documents carefully to see if your existing pet insurance policy includes cover for loss and theft.
Can I get pet insurance that covers loss and theft?
Pet insurance covers your pet for veterinary treatment should it develop an illness or suffer an injury. Some policies also offer additional cover for the death of your pet due to illness, holiday cancellation and loss and theft.
The type of pet insurance policy that you have can also affect if you are covered, and to what extent, for loss and theft. Most Lifetime plans include some degree of cover, but Maximum Benefit and Time-Limited policies tend to offer less cover, with most Accident-Only policies not providing any cover at all. A comparison site such as Compare the Market* or MoneySuperMarket* is an easy way to compare pet insurance policies that cover loss and theft. Although it is important to compare the policies carefully and remember that not all comparison sites are whole of market.
Amount of loss or theft cover by pet insurance type
Below is a comparison table providing examples of how loss and theft cover differs depending on the type of pet insurance policy you have, using some of the most comprehensive policies of each type of pet insurance on the market:
|ManyPets||Animal Friends||Petplan||The Insurance Emporium|
|Policy type||Lifetime||Maximum Benefit||Time-limited||Accident-only|
|Policy name||Complete||Max Extra||Essential||Accident-only|
|Loss or theft cover||£6,000||£1,000||£3,000||No cover|
|Advertising & reward cover||Advertising costs and up to twice the original pet value||£200||£1,000||No cover|
|Small print||Will not pay if your pet is lost or stolen when someone else is being paid to look after the pet||You will be paid a % of the price paid for your pet up to the amount covered (age dependant)||Cannot make a claim until your pet has been missing for a minimum of 30 days||24-hour lost and found service available as an extra benefit|
What cover does pet insurance offer for lost or stolen pets?
Different insurers have different specifications, but generally, there are three ways that your pet insurance can help you if your pet is lost or stolen. Here are some examples of how loss and theft are covered by the most comprehensive policies from a range of insurers:
Advertising costs for lost or stolen pets
If you have loss and theft cover included in your policy you may also have cover for advertising costs which is usually a contribution towards the cost of advertising your lost or stolen pet. If you are printing off large numbers of flyers, for example, you may be able to claim the cost through your insurance policy.
DirectLine's 5-in-1 pet insurance care package includes up to £1,000 for the cost of advertising in your local area, while PetPlan's Covered For Life provides up to £50 in each policy year to cover the cost of advertising materials such as paper and printer cartridges.
Contribute or cover a lost or stolen pet reward
Often pet insurance policies pledge a contribution or total cover of the reward for your lost or stolen pet. This differs depending on which plan you choose, as some insurers have a cap on the maximum amount they will contribute to your reward, and many include advertising costs under the same fee.
Animal Friends' Prestige policy will contribute up to £200 for advertising and reward costs while ManyPets' complete insurance will offer up to twice the original cost of your pet as a reward for your pet's safe return.
Reimburse you for the cost of your lost or stolen pet
Insurers sometimes offer to reimburse you for a percentage or the whole of the original purchase price of your pet if it has been missing for a set amount of time, e.g. 45 days.
The Insurance Emporium's Lifetime Gold dog insurance policy will cover you for the price you paid for your pet minus 50% of the price of pets aged 6 years or more, or 25% of the price of neutered pets up to the age of 6 years, up to a maximum of £1,500. M&S' Premier pet insurance - like most plans - will also cover up to £1,500 to reimburse you for a lost or stolen dog.
You should note that the rising cost of pets has not yet been reflected in loss or theft cover and according to Pets4Homes the average price of a puppy in 2021 was £1,900 which means that the majority of insurance policies would not cover the average cost of a dog.
Will I have to pay an excess fee if I claim for a lost or stolen pet?
In most cases, you will only pay an excess fee for vet fees, complementary treatment and third-party liability claims. Different insurers have different expectations regarding excess fees, so make sure to check the small print of your policy documents before making a claim so you know exactly how much you are expected to pay.
What to do if your pet goes missing or is stolen
Aside from the tried-and-tested techniques of printing off flyers and posting them around your neighbourhood, there are things you can do from the moment your pet goes missing to ensure the best chances of finding your pet and being eligible to claim on your insurance.
Report your pet as missing or stolen to rescue centres and charities
Your first action once you believe your pet is missing or stolen should be to report it to your local veterinary practices and pet charities. This not only hugely increases your chances of being reunited with your pet if it is found and dropped off somewhere nearby, but is also a common requirement before you are able to claim on your pet insurance policy. The Insurance Emporium's Lifetime Gold dog policy, for example, states that you must report your pet as missing to local animal welfare centres "immediately upon discovery" in order for your plan to cover you.
Get a crime reference number from the police
If your pet has been stolen you need to report the crime and obtain a crime reference number from the police. This not only helps you to stay up to date on any progress on the search for your pet but is a necessary minimum requirement for you to be able to claim on some pet insurance policies. PetPlan's Covered For Life policy, for example, will only pay out if you report your missing pet to the authorities and get written confirmation of a crime within 24 hours.
Report your pet as missing with your pet's microchipping database
Immediately inform your pet's microchip provider - such as Petlog, PETtrac or Identibase - as soon as you notice that your companion is gone. This will flag up your animal as missing if it is brought into a shelter and scanned, and enables veterinary practices and charities to contact you as soon as your pet is found.
On 6th April 2016 it became a legal requirement to microchip dogs and puppies and some insurers will not pay out a claim for loss and theft if your pet is not microchipped. From 10th June 2024 it will also become compulsory for all cats in England to be microchipped.
Use the internet to advertise your missing pet
Websites such as DogLost, Pets Located and the National Pet Register are valuable assets to make use of when your pet is missing. These will help you to broadcast the details of your missing animal and connect you with anyone in the UK who may come into contact with it, greatly increasing your chances of being reunited if your pet has relocated beyond your local area. Some of these services can also help you with the logistics of searching for your pet, emailing you if a potential match is found or designing "missing" posters free of charge.
How do you make a claim if your pet is stolen?
The first step to making a claim on your pet insurance if your pet goes missing is to check your policy documents, as different insurers have different claims processes.
For example, PetPlan asks you to download, complete and send a loss & theft form directly to them in order to make a claim, whereas ManyPets recommends you log in to your online account and make a claim virtually.
Do I need to cancel my pet insurance if my pet is not found?
Most insurers require you to wait a set amount of time, usually at least 48 hours before you can make a claim for a lost or stolen pet. If your pet is unfortunately not found or returned after an extended period of time, the decision to cancel your pet insurance would be entirely at your discretion. If it has been a number of months and there is reason to believe you and your pet will not be reunited, it may be a good idea to consider cancelling your policy.
However, take into account how far into your policy year you are, as if you have made a claim and you cancel your policy, you could be liable to pay the remaining premiums or if you paid annually you may not be entitled to a refund for the remaining months on the policy.
Which pet breeds are most likely to be stolen?
Different breeds of pet are more likely to attract thieves than others, especially when the breed is particularly valuable or fashionable.
The table below details which breeds of dog and cat are most likely to be stolen in the UK, according to data from Direct Line and Reader's Digest:
|Dog breeds most likely to be stolen||Cat breeds most likely to be stolen|
|Staffordshire Bull Terrier||Bengal|
|Cocker Spaniel||Russian Blue|
|Border Collie||Scottish Fold|
|Springer Spaniel||Domestic Shorthair|
Further information for pet owners
For more information on how to prevent your pet from being stolen, visit our article 'How to protect your pet against theft'. Or, for more general information about pet insurance, try 'Our complete guide to pet insurance'.