It’s hard to believe that someone would steal a person’s pet, but sadly, there are over two million cases reported per year – with fewer than 10% returned home. Even worse, it’s estimated that pet theft has risen by 31 percent since 2007.
Today, we’re looking at why pets are most often stolen, how you can protect your pet and how you can reduce the possibility of a dog- or cat-napping.
Why Pets Are Stolen
There are actually quite a few reasons why someone may steal a pet. According to PetFBI, these are the most common:
- Pet Flipping: Popular breeds of dogs can be “resold” online or in the paper.
- Reward: Some animals are stolen in hopes the owner will offer a reward, which the thief then claim.
- Puppy Mills: Animals that have not been spayed or neutered may be turned over to backyard breeds or puppy mills.
- Dog Fighting Rings: Small dogs and cats have been stolen to be used as “bait” for dog-fight training. Large breed dogs are often used as dog fighting candidates.
- Neighbors: If dogs or cats have been known as “nuisances” (specifically excess barking or free-roaming cats), neighbors have been known to take animals and dump them in other locales.
- Relatives: Sadly, many pet thefts come from family members who are upset with you or who feel that you somehow don’t deserve the animal in question. Occasionally, pets are stolen after a bitter divorce or family dispute.
- Bunchers & Class B Dealers: Bunchers were ‘random source’ dog and cat dealers, licensed “Class B” by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Up until the law prohibited this action in 2016, bunchers would collect as many companion animals as possible and sell them to research facilities for experimentation. The law now prohibits the sale of “randomly collected” animals to labs, but bunchers tend to operate in covert ways and in most cases, cross at least one state line to sell a pet.
- Good Intentions: Not all dog-nappings or cat-nappings are nefarious in nature. A good-hearted person may believe they are helping your pet if they feel an animal is neglected in some way. This is just one more reason to never leave your dogs tied up in your yard, keep them as an outdoor-only pet, or have a pet that shows signs of neglect.
While most of these animals were found in “free to a good home” ads on Craigslist, bunchers were also known for taking animals of yards, or finding animals who had escaped a yard. If a stolen animal is identified in a dealer’s possession, report it to USDA officials in your state and follow up to ensure the dealer’s records have been inspected. Visit the Animal Welfare Institute for current legislation, as well as watch lists of known bunchers and dealers.
How to Prevent Your Pets from Being Stolen
There is no surefire way to prevent your pet from being stolen, but there are certainly things you can do to mitigate the risk.
First and foremost, make sure that all of your pets are microchipped and that their records are updated. Your pets should always wear a collar and proper identification tags. It’s a good idea to get to know your neighborhood. Learn about the other animals in your area and foster relationships with neighbors so they know your pets are safe. Get involved with neighborhood watches, and be sure to bring in your neighborhood pet sitters and dog walkers – they often know the area better than others.
Cats should be kept indoors and only allowed outside into a fully enclosed kennel or outdoor enclosure.
- Microchip and register your pets
- Make sure your pets are always wearing a collar and identification
- Spay and neuter your pets
- Don’t leave outdoors unattended for extended periods
- Don’t tie up dogs outside of restaurant or store
- Never leave pets in cars
- Keep dog doors locked when you’re not at home
- Have updated photos of your pets with a focus on special markings
- Keep cats indoors
- Keep your gates locked with a padlock that features a combination or key. This limits the number of people with access to your yard.
- Consider a GPS activity tracker for your pet. You can set up “virtual fences” and the tracker will alert you when your pet has strayed from an area willingly or unwillingly.
- Install cameras. Indoor and outdoor camera networks are ideal for making sure your pets are safe.
What to Do if Your Pet is Stolen
There’s no scarier feeling than coming home to a dog or cat missing from your home. The most important thing you can do is to act quickly. Every minute matters when you’re looking for a pet, whether they’ve escaped from a yard or been dog-napped.
- If you believe your pet has been stolen, immediately file a police report. This provides a record that is documented and can be used for further action. However, don’t expect the police to assign a detective. In nearly all cases, the detective work will be up to you and your family.
- Whether you believe your pet was stolen or not, be sure to canvas the area on foot every day.
- Create a “Lost Pet” flyer and place throughout your neighborhood (PawBoost offers a free template). This helps others watch for your pets in cars, on the street and at neighbors.
- Post “lost pet” updates to social media groups, such as Lost Pets of “Your area” or NextDoor. Avoid mentioning that a reward is offered.
- Post a Lost Pet Report through your microchip company. This helps alert veterinarians and people in your area that a pet is missing.
- Check the “daily intakes” on your local animal control. Often these animals are moved to other facilities, so be diligent in checking records daily.
- Avoid posting that a reward is being offered and be weary of meeting people to do identify your dog or cat. Choose a safe, neutral area to meet so that you’re not giving a would-be criminal access to your home or family.
The best way of protecting your pet is to be aware that it’s a possibility. Knowledge is power, and if you take the necessary precautions to protect your pet, you are less likely to become a victim of pet theft.