National Pet Theft Day: What To Do When Your Dog Goes Missing

Have you ever had a pet that went missing with no explanation? In most cases, it can be chalked up to an inadvertently opened gate or door, but in some cases, pet theft could be to blame. I try and keep the attitude that people are inherently good, but there are pet thieves among us and awareness is strength when it comes to keeping your pets safe from theft. Feb. 14 is national Pet Theft Awareness Day — more info can be found at

I’m 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 that never knew a stranger. He was about 10 or so years old and one day he turned up missing from the back yard.  This was a fenced back yard 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 we 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 road 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 their due diligence and found it to be largely true. A documentary called Dealing Dogs was shown on HBO a few years back and centered around 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.

Here is a list of dos and don’ts you can take to safeguard your pet from theft from the Stolen Pets website.


  • DON’T leave pets unattended in your yard. It only takes a minute for someone to steal your pet.
  • DON’T allow your pet to be visible from the street.
  • DON’T leave your dog tied up outside restaurants or stores.
  • DON’T leave any animal unattended in your car
  • DON’T use “free to good home” ads to rehome pets. Contact a rescue group for assistance in conducting your own adoption.


  • DO spay and neuter your pets. This reduces their desire to stray and reduces the risk of your pet being stolen for breeding purposes.
  • DO provide your pets with collars, ID tags, and licenses. Speak with your veterinarian about backup forms of identifications, including tattooing and microchipping.
  • DO keep recent photos and descriptions of your pets on hand at all times.
  • DO educate family, friends, and neighbors about pet theft

Help end the practice of pet theft and protect your pet — take steps today to keep your pet at home, safely by your side.


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