Dognapping may not be at the top of your list of concerns, but unfortunately, it’s a phenomenon that’s on the rise. The American Kennel Club estimates that pet theft increased 28 percent from 2012 to 2013 alone. Dogs can be stolen for a number of reasons. Purebreds may be sold to pet stores, puppy mills, or breeders. Smaller dogs may be used as bait for dog fighting rings. And some dogs are even taken for their fur. So what can you do to help prevent your dog from being stolen and suffering these possible fates? Here are the steps you can take to keep your best friend safe.
  1. Keep your dog on a leash Off-leash dogs are more likely to be a target for thieves. It’s much easier to take a dog that’s wandering around on its own — even under your supervision — than one that’s physically attached to you by a leash.
  2. Don’t leave your dog unattended outdoors Unfortunately, a fence is not enough to deter thieves, so the safest place to leave you dog when you’re not home is indoors. This is especially true if your yard is visible from the street.
  3. Lock your gate If you must leave your dog in the yard, you can make it more difficult for her to be stolen by ensuring your gate is always locked. And avoid signs like “Warning: Mastiffs” because it may actually draw the attention of those seeking a particular breed.
  4. Be wary of strangers too interested in your dog Most of us love sharing details about our pups, but don’t share detailed information about your dog’s breeding, cost, or where you live.
  5. Don’t leave your dog alone in the car Not only is there a risk of overheating — temperatures rise much faster in an enclosed car than outdoors — but it may also attract pet thieves. Additionally, you run the risk of someone trying to steal another valuable item, such as your GPS unit or purse, and then allowing your dog to escape.
  6. Don’t tie your dog up outside a store Your dog will be vulnerable to potential thieves, particularly if you frequent a location often. Instead, stick to only dog-friendly locations or take someone along with you who can keep your dog company while you go inside.
  7. Get a microchip That dog tag isn’t enough. It can easily be removed by someone with bad intentions. But an up-to-date microchip can provide absolute proof of ownership, and it is standard procedure for shelters and veterinarians to scan for a microchip upon receiving new dogs or new canine patients. Having your dog microchipped greatly increases the chances of a reunion. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (Lord et al, July 15, 2009), dogs with microchips were returned to their owners over 52 percent of the time, as opposed to less than 22 percent for dogs without microchips.
Unfortunately, even if you take preventative measures, your dog can still be stolen. If this happens to you, taking immediate action can sometimes make a difference. Report the crime to your local police or animal control officer, and also ask them to list your dog in the “stolen article” category on the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Also, canvass your neighborhood. Talk to people who may have seen something suspicious, post fliers with a recent photo of your dog, and reach out to your local TV station, radio station, or newspaper to see if they will help spread the word. Another important way to help protect all dogs is to prevent others from making a profit by dognapping — don’t buy a stolen pet. Many people want to “rescue” a dog that they see being sold, but they are simply encouraging pet thieves to continue their business. Don’t buy dogs from a website or online classified ad, at flea markets, or roadside vehicles. Do your research to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable breeder — or, better yet, rescue a dog from a shelter instead. Had you ever had your dog stolen? Tell us the lessons you learned from your experience.

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