• Dog theft is on the rise in the UK
  • Frank the pug found because of social media campaign
  • Microchipping is essential in reducing the crime

At LV= we know our customers love their pets, but what would you do if your dog was stolen? One pet owner took to social media to recover his beloved pug.

It was meant to be just another ordinary, routine afternoon for Phil Ludlam, yet within the space of a few minutes, his life had been turned been upside down. He had parked his van in an Asda car park in Trafford Park, Manchester, to pick up some groceries. On his return he found that his vehicle had been broken into and his beloved black pedigree pug Frank had been stolen.

Phil was heartbroken. Frank had been a much loved part of the family since the summer of 2012, when he arrived in Winton, Salford aged nine weeks. He took an immediate liking to Phil and the two became the best of friends. Frank's owner immediately reported the theft to the local authorities, and in addition posted leaflets all around the local area, kicked off a social media campaign to raise awareness of his plight and see him reunited with his pet.

Along with a HelpFindFrank Facebook and Twitter page, a website was set up and soon enough, even celebrities like Beverley Callard (Coronation Street's Liz McDonald) were forwarding on tweets to their respective followers.

18 days later, thanks to the wide and regular online exposure, someone tipped Phil off that they had seen a dog fitting the description of Frank in Accrington, Lancashire, roughly 20 miles north of Manchester.

He tracked the pup down to a woman living in the area, who had, she told him, bought the dog in good confidence from someone who is presumed to be the thief. Luckily, Phil had chipped Frank – see our piece here for more information on the importance of this – and a local vet confirmed that it belonged to him.

Fast forward to today and the black pug has become the face of a new anti-dog theft campaign. A few months ago, Phil developed a prototype 'secure crèche unit', whereby owners can safely lock up their pets when they're in a shop.

Dubbed the FranKage, it is a temporary, spacious cage that offers pet owners the kind of security that is lacking when they usually tie their pet up outside of an establishment. You put a £1 coin in, which in return gives you access to the unit key – no one else can get in. When you're done, your £1 is duly returned.

While seemingly not that novel an idea – it's just a cage – nothing like this exists and, given that pet theft is on the rise, there probably is a real demand for this. Some studies suggest that dog theft has quadrupled over the last five years, while the UK's first ever Pet Theft Census states that three cats and dogs are stolen every day.

There is support out there. Dog Theft Action, which was set up in 2005, works closely with many organisations and charities to draw attention to dog theft and actively works with key stakeholders in reducing the statistics associated with dog theft. It also offers advice on what to do if your pet is stolen.

This needn't be an unhappy ending, as Phil and Frank's tail (sorry, tale!) shows. Getting your pet microchipped, reporting a theft early, using social media or taking out pet insurance – as well as putting posters up around your area – can all play their part in keeping the story alive.