It’s every pup parent’s worst nightmare. It may not get as much media coverage as the abduction of a human, but dognapping does happen. And for a loving pawrent it is terrifying.
The American Kennel Club reported 609 pet thefts in 2013, a 33% increase over 2012. Criminals have discovered a new way to earn a quick buck by exploiting the fact that we adore our pets. Some thieves hold the stolen dogs for ransom, others resell them online, and some even use them for profit in underground dog fighting rings. Luckily, there are several things you can do to protect your dog from becoming a statistic of this frightening trend.
1. Microchip all your pets
A collar and ID tag can be quickly and easily removed, but a microchip is forever. As tiny as a grain of rice, microchips can be implanted at any veterinary visit or during your dog’s spay/neuter procedure if you are squeamish. Any time a dog arrives at a shelter, animal clinic, or government facility under suspicious circumstances, they are checked for a chip. It is by far the fastest way to find where a lost pet truly belongs.
In fact, when a scruffy Seattle pup was stolen and dyed black by her dognapper to keep her from being recognized, it was the dog’s microchip that ultimately brought her back home. Without it, the family may not have ever been able to rescue their pup.
2. Never let your dog off leash in the neighborhood
Even if you have great neighbors who love your pet as much as you do, a dog off-leash is a nightmare waiting to happen. Besides the risk of injuries from cars, snakes, and other dogs, your pup will be a sitting duck to a dognapper trolling for victims!
3. Do not leave your dog unattended in the yard
The same goes for dogs left unattended in fenced yards. Even if you are at home, chances are you aren’t watching your pooch out the window every second. It only takes a moment for someone to lean over the fence and scoop up your good-natured pup.
4. Do not leave your dog alone in a car
We have all heard the warnings about leaving dogs alone in cars, but it’s not just the weather we need to worry about. Even if it’s a brisk fall day, leaving your pooch in the car while you run errands could still put him at risk. Unattended cars are a dognapper’s favorite opportunity to snatch your best friend. As much as we love riding with our dogs, the safest place for them is inside your home while you are out shopping.
5. Do not tie your dog up outside of a store
This is just as treacherous as leaving your fuzzbutt in the car, if not worse! All the thief has to do is untie that leash and walk on down the road as if he owns the dog. Folks on the street would have no reason to suspect the dognapper was anything but the pup’s rightful owner. Scary.
6. Avoid giving personal information to strangers
If a friendly stranger seems all too interested in the details of your pooch’s pedigree, be suspicious. Of course it’s fine if folks want to chat about what a cute mix your mutt is, but if they start asking how much you paid for your dog, where you live, or if you bought from a breeder—clam up!
How you can help put an end to these horrible crimes:
7. Be wary of purchasing a dog advertised online
Dana and Mike Jancarole were lucky enough to be reunited with their Husky, Koda thanks to the kindness of the couple who unknowingly purchased their stolen pooch on Craiglist. Unfortunately, too many other families do not get such a happy ending when their dog is stolen. You may believe you are rescuing a dog from a dangerous fate by answering an online ad, but as long as criminals keep making money this way they will be encouraged to keep ‘napping!
8. Newspaper ads may be shady, too
Classified ads in print give the impression of legitimacy since the person placing the ad has had to provide personal info, but even these can be suspicious. Dog thieves can provide false information and pre-paid cell phone numbers for the ad. The goal is to sell the dog off quickly and place the next ad with completely different information in order to maintain their cover.
9. Re-homers should never expect money
If someone claims that they are simply looking for a good home for a dog they can no longer care for, but ask you for a “re-homing fee,” a red flag should go up. A person who is genuinely concerned about placing an animal with a loving new family should not be concerned about recouping any costs they have incurred for the pet. That dog may be a victim of dognapping and you should alert authorities immediately.
Please note: If for some reason you find yourself with no option but to give up your dog, please do not take matters into your own hands. Contacting a shelter—who will complete thorough background checks, interviews, and home visits for potential adopters—is the safest way to find your dog a new family.
10. If you are interested in purchasing a purebred dog, be sure to research the breeder and insist on seeing the mother, father, and littermates
Too many unscrupulous individuals have given responsible breeders a bad name. Professional breeders who love the animals and breed them humanely are out there, you just have to find them. If you come across a “breeder” who asks to meet you at a neutral location and refuses to show you the parents and littermates of the dog they are selling, run! Even if the pup was not stolen, something shady is going on. Responsible breeders are proud to show off their dogs.
11. Consider a rescue even if you want a purebred dog
Some folks just adore a certain breed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rescue! There are rescue groups dedicated to specific breeds all over the country. Often, purebred pups end up in shelters when unprepared owners surrender them. If you know your next dog has to be a specific breed, do some research to see if a rescue dog might be a good fit for your family. Dognappers target pure-breeds for their popularity. Adopting from a rescue not only discourages thieves, it saves a deserving life!