Pet Theft: Who Filched Fido?

We usually try and keep on the lighter side here, but this week’s post is no laughing matter. Pet theft is a thing, and it is an increasingly prevalent thing. I am sure that in many cases what pet owners think is theft is actually a dog or cat escaping under its own power, but pet theft does occur and it seems to be on the rise.

I am one of those who may or may not have been a victim of pet theft. I had a little cocker mix named Buddy several years ago. He was a happy-go-lucky and agreeable dog who never knew a stranger. He was about 10 or so years old and one day he turned up missing from the backyard. This was a fenced backyard that he had lived in for at least a year. Not Fort Knox impenetrable, but fenced with a gate and he had never tried to get out before. There were no signs of digging out and the gate was closed and latched. The natural assumption was that he was stolen. We never saw him again and never learned his fate despite posters and calls to local humane shelters and veterinary hospitals.

The police don’t have a registry of missing pets like they do for missing kids, but estimates are that two million pets are stolen each year. Where they go is anybody’s guess — some may be sold for research, some may be sold for breeding and some may be just plain sold for pets. Doubtless, some dogs that are thought to be missing have merely escaped and ended up in a new home as a stray, or injured or killed on the roads and never identified. But, the fact remains that dogs are stolen in significant numbers every year and most of them meet unpleasant fates.

While some of this may seem like urban-legend fear mongering (which I try and avoid), investigative journalists have done due diligence and found it to be largely true. A documentary called Dealing Dogs was shown on HBO a few years back and centered on a company that brokered stolen dogs.

What can one do to avoid becoming a victim of pet theft? I have always said that dogs, regardless of their age, are like perma-toddlers. While it is not completely practical, treating your dog like you would treat a 2-year-old is part of the solution. You wouldn’t leave a 2-year-old child in the back yard for hours, would you? Keeping a close watch and a short lead on your dog can help keep the bad guys in black masks from making off with your pet. If you have a dog that likes to jump the fence and you’re worried about someone taking him, use a dome stake from Sergeant’s with a heavy duty tie-out cable.

If your pet goes missing, an all-out detective campaign can help — in most cases. It can help return a dog to your home that has escaped and may be cooling his heels at the local shelter. Don’t forget that many veterinary ERs will see injured strays and treat them. You may be on the hook for a big vet bill, but check your local emergency hospitals to see if your pet is there. You can find a list of veterinary ERs in your area here.

A collar (Sergeant’s has some great nylon collars) with an ID tag is good, but a microchip with up-to-date address information can also help deter a thief from snatching your dog and help get them back to you if they become lost or stolen.



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