Dog-nappings have soared by 50 per cent in the past two years, according to official figures from the Department of Justice.
There were 145 reported thefts reported in 2018 before it rocketed to 210 last year. This year's figures are likely to be the highest yet, with 120 dogs registered as stolen during the first six months of the year.
Fiona Gammell of Wicklow Animal Welfare advises concerned dog owners to ensure their dog isn't allowed roam freely as one way to try and prevent your pet from being stolen.
She said: 'If you were to drive through many towns and villages in Ireland today, you would probably see one or two, at least, dogs roaming around. If you were to make enquiries, you might be told "ah he or she belongs to such a body and he or she knows their way home." I have seen it myself and nine times out of ten there is no collar or ID visible.
'We obviously cannot determine visually if the dogs is chipped or not, we need a scanner to do that, which means bringing the dog to a vet, pound or rescue where they can scan the dog and try to trace the owner if the dog is chipped.
'The microchip details need to be correct and updated if there is a change of address or phone number. The collar and ID model is actually an easier and quicker way of reuniting 'lost or wandering' dogs. But if a dog is not chipped, what happens then? By law the dog should be reported to the Gardai and the dog warden.
'It's details should be recorded to give the owner a chance of finding it. Usually, after five days in a pound, keepers will allow the finder to keep the dog for the five days.
'Then if no owner is found the dog can be re-homed or kept by the finder. In absence of the dog doing its five days either in or through the pound system, the found dog should still be notified to the Gardai and the pound, but if no one comes forward to claim the dog, the finder may legally keep it after a year and a day has passed.'
There has been a spate of dog thefts in County Wicklow and nationally over the past six months, and Fiona believes the willingness of many people to pay large amounts for a dog without properly checking its background, has played a part in the increased theft of dogs.
'A lot of people who are at home for the time being, felt it was the right time to get a dog, resulting in the demand for puppies and dogs sky rocketing,' said Fiona.
'This has been fuelled even further the abhorrent puppy farm trade of vulnerable sentient beings. I wonder did the buyers and sellers abide by the law in relation to the sale of these puppies?
'It is against the law according to the Microchipping of Dogs Act 2015 to transport a dog from the land or premises it was born or cause or permit another person to so transport a dog, unless the dog is microchipped and registered. I wonder how many people who traversed the length and breath of the country during lockdown abided by those rules?
'It seems we have learned nothing in the past twenty years. People were prepared to pay ridiculous prices to get what they wanted and the euro signs were all the greedy puppy farmers needed.
'They wanted to produce more and more puppies quickly so they decided to steal them. And that unfortunately is where your vulnerable dog became a target.'
There is plenty of evidence of houses and boundaries being 'marked' as a place where dogs could be stolen, while drones have also been used to look into private yards to determine where dogs might be kept.
Keeping your pet indoors increases their safety, as does getting them neutered.
'A locked shed is no deterrent. Dogs are supposed to be 'family members' and should be indoors with their family and not out in a shed being left vulnerable to theft,' advised Fiona.
'Another way of protecting our dogs is to have them neutered, which is not law unfortunately. An un-neutered dog is more vulnerable to theft as a neutered dog cannot be used for breeding.
'Obviously it is much easier to see if a male dogs is neutered versus a female. Usually when a dog is stolen, it is driven a few miles away. If it is determined early on that the dog is neutered, then it is often dumped as useless.
'But now even the neutered ones are being stolen for resale or to be used as bait dogs, although I believe that is far less relevant than those stolen for breeding or resale.'
Fiona recommends getting your dog licensed and micro-chipped as a matter of urgency, and offers other tips to increase the security of your pooch or pooches.
If you don't already have your dog microchipped and licensed, do it now. Don't say "I have an appointment to do it tomorrow." Tomorrow may never come - do it today.
'Neuter your dog, put a collar and ID on with your phone number on it and leave it on. Don't say "I washed the dogs and forgot to put it back on."
'Make sure your fencing is secure and your gates closed when you dog is out. Never allow your dog outside your property without you or a responsible person being with it.
'Don't leave your dog alone in the garden unsupervised. If your dog does go missing, inform the Gardai and the dog warden in the area where the dog went missing.
'Go on social media sites, make posters, always have a recent photo of your dog and contact rescues, vets and anyone who has any connection with dogs.
'They are usually good at recognising dogs. 'But most importantly, please treat your dog like you would treat your most treasured possession. Know where it is at all times. Insure it too and never think it cannot happen to you.
'But remember, no matter how bad you might feel if your dog was stolen, think for a moment about how your dog must feel being separated from its home and all it knows.
'That kind of trauma should be the last thing felt by any animal. You must protect your dog. Unless they are trained guard dogs, they rely on you to protect them, so please do so.'