The social internet has played a major role in helping pet owners and causes raise awareness for pets in need. One issue it has helped raise greater awareness of is pet theft. With highly publicized cases including Sugar, a Pit Bull in New York that was stolen by her dog walker, and Bronson, a stolen Chihuahua who was just found and returned to his owner this past week, more pet owners than ever are becoming aware of this pet theft. It has included rumors of signs and signals that pets are being targeted — marks on driveways, plastic bags hanging in trees, and stickers marking where dog thieves may strike next. It isn’t just an issue that pet owners are facing — numerous shelters have had break-ins with the intent to steal animals from their cages. Some stats have shown an increase from just 71 stolen dogs per year to over 400 within four or so years timeframe. Without a doubt, pet owners, rescues, fosters and shelters need to be aware.
Common breeds that are stolen are purebreds and exotic breeds (such as Labordoodles), often stolen to be sold to puppy mills or breeders or resold to consumers. But many other breeds including german shepherds, pit bulls and dobermans are stolen for use in dog fighting. Sadly, many pets of all breeds are stolen to be sold to laboratory research and veterinarian training facilities. In reality, no pet is ever truly safe.
Here are ways you can protect your pet from theft:
- Never allow your pet to live outdoors. Aside of it not being ideal for any pet to live outdoors all the time, it can increase their risk of being stolen. If you allow your pet outdoors for lengths of time, ensure that fences and enclosures are high enough to be difficult for someone to climb, and monitor your animal while outdoors to ensure he or she is safe.
- Never leave your pet outdoors alone when you are not home.
- Do not leave your pet in a locked car for any length of time. This is also very unsafe from a weather standpoint, but additionally, it can also put your pet at risk for theft.
- Spay/neuter your animal — an animal that can’t reproduce is often of no value to puppy mills and breeders.
- Properly microchip and have a current identification tag on your pet.
- Keep vet records and current photos in a safe place that you can easily find as needed.
- Never give your pet away for free, and never list your pet on sites like Craig’s List or Facebook when attempting to find it a new home if needed.
- Do not give your pet away to anyone yourself. Work with a local shelter or rescue to help find your pet a home if you need to rehome it. If you do give a pet away yourself, do not do so without a visit to the person’s home, information about their work, income, etc. to ensure your pet is going somewhere safe.
- Be aware of suspicious people in your neighborhood. Watch for suspicious activity.
If your pet is stolen or you believe it has been stolen, take action immediately! Call the police, all local rescues, shelters and other organizations within 60 miles of your home. Follow up with them regularly and often to see if your animal may turn up or have been seen. Post fliers, share on social media that your pet is missing and may have been stolen, and regularly check pet boards and classifieds to see if anyone may list it for give away or sale. Search for your pet calling its name by foot within a relatively large distance around your home, particularly in mornings or evenings when it is quiet so you can hear it if it barks or meows, or it can hear you. Let your neighbors know, all local businesses, etc. that your pet is missing and may have been stolen. You can also alert the local media, which often shares the stories of missing pets.
Raising awareness and making noise about your lost or stolen pet can work to help find it. Don’t give up hope no matter how long it might take!
If you suspect you have found who has stolen your pet, do not attempt to recover your animal from them. Call the police immediately. Include as much detail as possible — what they look like, any specifics such as location, car or residence, time of day, etc. This can help keep you and your pet safe, and ensure better chance of successfully rescuing it.