Combating Pet Theft: Steps to Take if Your Pet is Missing

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2013

Sadly pets get stolen all the time. There is even an annual Pet Theft Awareness Day, organized by a wonderful organization called Last Chance for Animals. But any time of year is a good time to raise awareness of how easy it is for pets to be stolen.

I spend a lot of time in Belmont Shore in Long Beach, California. It’s an extremely dog-friendly place. Many of the stores allow people and their pets inside. When shoppers go into the few stores that don’t, they simply tie their dog to a pole outside. It has always worried me. I think people are often far too trusting. Keep your dog with you in public, even if you need to skip a store.

The same goes for leaving a dog unattended in a garden. Unless the property is surround by  high walls and is impenetrable, pets should never be let alone outside. Reports of dog thefts from residential yards are on the rise. Keep an eye on your dogs!

Here’s  advice to follow, offered by Last Chance for Animals, if you believe your pet has been stolen:

  • Look everywhere, around the house, in closed cupboards, closets, the garage and the yard.
  • Call your local animal shelter and pound immediately to see if your animal was recently admitted.
  • Talk with neighbors. Go door-to-door in the area your pet disappeared to see if anyone has information on your animal.
  • Walk, drive or bicycle around the area your pet disappeared, calling your animal’s name over and over. If your pet is trapped in a neighbor’s yard or is too injured to move, it may respond to your voice, so listen carefully.
  • Pay special attention to sheds, abandoned buildings and anywhere else your pet could be hiding. Perform this search several times throughout the day.
  • Create and post signs with a photo of your pet that gives a description of the animal, the area in which he or she was lost and contact information.
  • Be sure to place the fliers in your neighborhood as well as in places where many people are likely to see them such as grocery stores, pet supply stores, veterinarians’ offices, animal shelters and pounds.
  • If possible, offer a reward of at least $300 to give people an incentive to return your pet.
  • Go to the animal shelter and pound often to look at the animals being held as strays. Check to see if the animal shelter or pound has a website with photos. Visits in person are much more effective as shelter/pound employees may not match a particular animal to a lost report over the phone. You are the only one who can really identify your lost animal. Visit the shelter for a minimum of ten days.
  • Contact veterinary clinics, including emergency veterinary hospitals. Your pet may have been injured and taken to a veterinarian or veterinary hospital for treatment.
  • Contact local daily and weekly newspapers to place a lost pet ad. Also, check the “found animal” section of local newspapers.
  • Contact local radio and television stations. Many air “lost and found pets” segments.
  • Ask delivery people who regularly travel through your neighborhood if they have seen your pet. Your mail carrier, water delivery person, gas company employee, security guard or meter reader may have seen your pet. Ask them to be on the lookout for your animal as they pass through the area.
  • Contact laboratory animal departments of universities and hospitals in your area. Go to the labs and describe your animal to laboratory personnel. Post a photo of your animal in the laboratory.
  • File a police report with your local police department or sheriff’s office. If you suspect that your animal has been stolen, report it to the police immediately. A police report will be useful for identification purposes when retrieving your pet and will prove helpful in court if a suspect is brought to trial. If the authorities are hesitant to prepare the report, remind them that pets by law are valuable “property” and their theft is either a felony or misdemeanor under all state laws. By law, the police must take action on your complaint. Be persistent.
  • Post a description and photo of your lost pet on the Internet at and through your social media networks.
  • Contact the police if several animals in your neighborhood have turned up missing. Provide them with as much detailed information as possible.
  • Do not give up! Your pet is depending on you to do your best to try to find him or her. There are many instances of cats and dogs being found after many months. The person who responds immediately to a missing pet and expends significant energy in trying to find the animal stands a much greater chance of recovering him or her.

It’s important to remember that pets that have been microchipped stand a far better chance of being re-united with their loved ones. Collars and tags are great – but they can be removed.

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-Photo Credit: From flickr by Rennes.i

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