If you’re anything like us here at Breed Advisor, we simply can’t imagine life without our four-legged family members. That’s why we were horrified to learn that approximately 2 million canines are dognapped each year.
Sadly, dog abductions have become increasingly common over the past decade. In fact, American Kennel Club president Tom Sharp reports that the number of stolen dogs has increased by a whopping 70% since 2010.
It may seem unfathomable that your pup could be stolen, but dogs are regularly taken from yards and cars to busy, public places. Virtually anyone can fall prey to this horrific crime.
Earlier this year, two of singer-songwriter Lady Gaga’s trio of beloved French Bulldogs were dognapped after thieves shot dog walker Ryan Fischer in the chest. Gaga offered a generous reward, and miraculously, the dogs were found alive and were returned to the pop star within a week.
Unfortunately, most dognapping victims aren’t reunited with their pets. Even worse? Dognapping is only considered a crime in 15 of the 50 states.
Why Thieves Abduct Dogs
Dogs are abducted for a variety of reasons. Most dognappers steal canines to make a quick buck, while others simply can’t afford to buy the breed they wish to have as a pet.
Dognapped pups may also be used for breeding, illegal fighting rings, or medical research.
Commonly Abducted Dogs
While any dog may be dognapped, thieves generally target puppies and purebred, high-value dogs, which include Bulldogs and smaller breeds. It takes mere seconds for a dognapper to abduct an innocent, unaware pup, so it’s important that dog owners know how to keep their dogs safe as dognapping cases continue to rise.
Below, we share 11 ways to ensure you and your fur-kid don’t become victims of this thoughtless crime—and what to do if the worst happens:
1. Don’t Leave Your Dog in an Unattended Vehicle
Sure, dogs love joining their owners to run errands and explore new places, but it’s essential to stay with your pooch for the entirety of your trip out. Dogs who are unattended in public spaces are at great risk for being abducted.
Dog owners who leave their canines in their vehicles are asking for trouble, even those well-meaning folks who leave their pups for a moment or two while running a small errand.
Many dognappers don’t think twice about breaking a window to abduct an unsuspecting animal, so we strongly advise dog owners not to leave their pet unattended in a vehicle for any reason. Even if you live in a “safe area,” your dog could be at risk.
2. Keep an Eye on Your Dog While Outdoors
Although many dognapping cases occur in public places, some dogs vanish from their own yards. Dognapping is often a crime of opportunity, so if a thief catches sight of a canine he can flip for cash, he won’t hesitate to snatch your pet from your property. Dogs are most vulnerable when kept in front yards, but pups have been known to be taken from backyards as well.
There are a few ways to safeguard your yard to ward potential abductors. Installing a privacy fence will ensure your dog isn’t on display for potential predators, and placing a bell or other noise-making device on your gate may deter intruders. Outdoor cameras and security signs are also good deterrents.
3. Walk Your Dog on a Leash
Even in the safest neighborhoods, walking your dog off-leash is risky. Canines tend to become distracted and easily excitable when there are new sights, sounds, and smells to enjoy. Because some pups are prone to running off for unsupervised exploration, we recommend keeping your dog on a leash at all times while away from home.
4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
While out and about, keep an eye and ear out for vehicles passing slowly. To avoid distractions, limit the time spent on your phone.
Also be aware of any strangers who show interest in your dog; these folks may simply be fellow dog lovers, or they may have ulterior motives. The more you share about your dog, the more likely dognappers are to successfully abduct your pet.
5. Switch Up Your Routine
If you typically walk your dog on the same path at the same time each day, considering switching up your routine. Dognappers have been known to stalk their victims before abducting animals. A varying routine may just ensure your dog’s safety. Plus, it’s fun to explore new places!
6. Equip Your Dog with a Collar and ID
A collar and ID tag will ensure your dog is identifiable if he or she runs off or gets lost. While it may seem obvious what information should be included on an ID tag, it’s just as important to exclude certain info:
Include your name, address, and cell phone number.
If your dog is microchipped, this info should be included on the ID tag.
State if your dog is spayed or neutered to ward off dognappers who steal dogs for breeding.
Do not include your dog’s name on the ID tag. Calling your dog by name may help dognappers lure your pet into a vehicle or building.
7. Invest in a GPS Tracker
We’re big fans of GPS trackers for dog owners who regularly take their pups out-and-about. Simply attaching this device to your pet’s collar is an extra step you can take to keep track of his or her whereabouts at all times.
While our main goal is to help keep your dog safe and sound at home, we’d be remiss not to include this specific safeguard in the case that your canine is stolen. Having a microchip inserted in your pet adds an extra layer of security, as many times, dognappers will remove any other identifiers, such as a collar with tags.
A microchip will also prove that your dog is in fact yours if there’s ever any question following an abduction.
Be sure to update the contact information associated with your microchip if these details happen to change.
9. Take Pictures Regularly
It’s important to have current photos of your pup at various angles in the case that he or she is lost or stolen. Be sure to take updated photos after your pet is groomed, and jot down any markings or unique features you can show as proof of ownership.
We also recommend having pics of your dog with you and other family members on hand for added proof that your dog is, in fact, your pet.
10. Utilize Reputable Services
Whether you’re looking for a dog sitter, dog walker, or kennel, be sure to check references and utilize reputable companies to care for your canine.
11. Be Mindful of the Information You Share on Social Media
If you tend to post publicly on social media, refrain from posting pics of your pooch that include your location or other identifying information, including visible ID tags.
If you and your pup are exploring a new area, wait to post photos with a tagged location until after the outing. It’s also best not to tag locations that you regularly visit with your pet. Online lurkers may take note of your routine and take advantage of the info you share.
If a seemingly innocent acquaintance or stranger is strangely inquisitive about your pet, refrain from sharing any information that may help the individual lure your pooch.
What to Do if Your Dog is Stolen
In the case that your furry family member is stolen:
Notify the police right away, and be sure to file a detailed report. Keep a copy for your records.
Contact your pet’s microchip company to report the theft.
Report the theft to shelters and stolen dog databases such as petfbi.org, as well as local veterinarians and groomers.
Share photos of your stolen dog on social media as soon as possible.
Hand out fliers, post them in public places, and offer an unspecified reward.
Email your local newspaper with details about the theft, and be sure to include a recent photo of your pet. You may also want to contact your local radio station.
Keep in mind that you’ll likely receive fake tips when sharing your contact information. Never respond to an individual who states they have your pet and will only return him or her for cash. Contact authorities with this information.
If you locate your stolen pet, contact law enforcement to ensure the animal is recovered and returned to you.
Pet owners whose dogs have been abducted describe the experience as horrifying. There’s nothing worse than the unknown, and dognapping is heart-wrenching for both owner(s) and dog.
The above-mentioned tips should help keep your dog safe in your care. We hope you and your pet never fall victim to this thoughtless crime.
Becky Simmonds is a professional dog walker and part-time rescue worker. In her local community she's known as the 'dog whisperer'! Her innate ability to understand and communicate with dogs (even if they're not hers) is quite incredible! Becky's loyal companion Chip, a German Shorthaired Pointer accompanies the group on their daily adventures!