5 Ways Thieves Could Steal Your Dog

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on January 1, 2013. Enjoy!

Sergeant Kenneth Chambers was playing Frisbee with his dog in the parking lot of a Jacksonville, Florida grocery store recently when lightning struck out of the clear blue sky. The young American veteran, in recovery for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rolled down the car windows and placed his Australian Shepard/Blue Heeler Mix inside the vehicle just briefly while he went inside to help his mother with the bags. When he came out moments later, Adalida was gone.

Unfortunately for Sergeant Chambers, and for Adalida, the parking lot scenario placed them in two of the top five high-risk situations for pet theft. And while Sergeant Chamebers’ search continues for Adalida, there are measures that all of us can take to prevent a similar tragedy.

Top Five High Risk Pet Theft Scenarios

#1 Dogs in Autos:

In the blink of an eye, a partially opened window is forced down or the window is smashed and the dog can be removed from the vehicle. It takes 20 seconds or less to abduct a dog and by the time the pet guardian returns to the car, their dog is long gone. The American Kennel Club reports a 70% rise in dog theft in 2012 and a 40% rise the year before. A weak economy is fueling financially motivated dog-napping and a dog in a car is quite simply a sitting duck.

Leaving your dog in the car is a bad idea for so many reasons.

#2 Highly Prized Breeds or Dogs With Special Abilities:

A purebred dog or a dog with special skills is a bit like a gold watch. Thieves see dollar signs and that’s more than enough temptation. Any dog left unattended under any circumstances can be taken, but there is far greater motivation for criminals to walk off with a dog who can bring in a large sum of cash.

#3 Pets Left in Fenced Backyards:

Everyone loves the convenience of a doggy door, especially criminals. Homeowners who let their pet explore the fenced yard without supervision have the illusion of safety, but police departments across the country will tell you that the theft of these dogs is climbing.

In broad daylight on a single Saturday in November, Corning (California) Animal Shelter Manager Debbie Eaglebarger documented the theft of four Dobermans, four Australian shepherds and two Rottweilers. There were actually other dogs taken that same day but the first few calls were not recorded as the shelter had not yet realized that the town was in the midst of a widespread crime wave. One neighbor saw a man and a woman driving a green pick up truck lure one of the dogs out of a backyard and into their vehicle. All dogs taken that day were purebred, but that is not always the case.

#4 Pets Left Tied in Front of Businesses:

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but particularly in urban areas where people take their pets on their errands on foot, it’s not uncommon to find dogs tied up in front of a bank or grocery store. Typically, these are dogs with a gentle demeanor making them highly susceptible to the commands of a would-be thief.

“Leaving your dog tied up in front of a store is about as ludicrous as leaving your child out front and saying, ‘Wait right there, I’ll be back in 10 minutes,” explains Howard Simpson of Integrated Security and Communications in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. “Do yourself a favor and realize that there are security risks in even the safest of neighborhoods. Being naive makes you a target.”

#5 Strangers in the Neighborhood:

Any strangers on the property can be a risk to your pets. Whether they are invited contractors, deliverymen or activists with a petition in hand, visitors could easily grab a pet during a moment when the homeowner is distracted. In some cases, they are making a mental note of homes with valuable breeds or easy-to-subvert home security that will facilitate a quick dog-napping at a later time. It bears mentioning that it’s not uncommon for cats to jump into the back of truck beds for a snooze and to be unwittingly carried off at the end of the day.

Which Breeds Are Most Likely to Be Stolen?

According to the American Kennel Club, the most-stolen dog of 2011 was the Yorkshire Terrier, followed by the Pomeranian, Maltese and Boston Terrier. Small breeds are targeted by thieves because of their size but also because of their value on the market as a single dog can fetch well over $1,000. Among the large breeds, Labrador Retrievers are a frequent target and Pit Bull Terriers and Pit Bull mixes are frequently coming up stolen for perhaps a much more sinister purpose.

Dog Thieves: Why They’ll Steal Your Pet

1. Bait Dogs & Labratory Dogs: This is every dog guardian’s worst nightmare. Indeed people involved in dog fighting will gather “bait” dogs to be used as training tools for fighting dogs. It happens in both urban and rural areas and there has been no measurable decline in dog fighting in recent years despite attempts to police against it. And, despite some legislation intended to stop the sale of undocumented dogs to research laboratories, under-the-table purchase of dogs continues and, in some countries, these exchanges are not considered a crime.

2. Financially Motivated Theft: “For the first time ever we’ve seen a trend now where shelters are being broken into and purebred and mixed breed dogs are being stolen,” said Lisa Peterson, spokesperson for the American Kennel Club. In fact, any pure bred dog, particularly puppies, are considered a high-value commodity. Even with a microchip, it’s often too late by the time a pet buyer discovers that they have purchased a stolen dog.  By then, the thief is long gone.

3. Emotionally Driven Theft: What’s often overlooked are the emotionally motivated crimes that rob dogs of their families. This can happen because the perpetrator feels that a dog is not being properly cared for. Some animal lovers will feel justified in stealing a dog that is tied in front of a store or who gets on the loose one day. Other times it’s an act of revenge, and there are many reports of dogs being taken where a former romantic partner is considered the prime suspect.

One very risky move…

Whatever the scenario or the motivation, dog guardians can best protect their dogs with watchfullness. Never leave a dog unattended. Secure your home, including all doors and windows, to the best of your ability and budget. And be wary of strangers in your neighborhood at all times.

Brought to you by the Harmony Fund international animal rescue charity.

Related Stories:

The Neighbor’s Dog Ran to Me for Help

Puppies Saved from Burning House

Dog Lying on Hot Highway for a Week Saved by Trucker’s  Tip



Ruth K.
Ruth K.5 months ago

I keep my six foot privacy fence with gate padlocked 24/7. It's a bit of an inconvenience, but if someone stole any of my dogs, I would hate myself for not doing that and everything else I could think of. If I leave the house, the dogs stay locked indoors until I get back, AND the gate to the yard is still locked so if anyone broke into the house, they'd at least have to contend with the fence/gate and do it in front of my vigilant neighbors who all love dogs. When I'm home and let them out to play in the fenced yard, I am still either audibly or visually aware of where they are 99% of the time. I used to have a show Doberman/soul mate and that is when I became aware of the dangers: Nothing bad happened, but he was so strikingly beautiful that we never we out anywhere together that we didn't attract loads of attention. And since he was so sweet and friendly, there were always people coming up to us to pet him. Instinctively, I began looking over my shoulder. Truthfully, he would have be extremely difficult to steal because he was so devoted to me, he had major issues with being apart--which is a breed characteristic. But just in case some tenacious criminal came onto the property with tranquilizer spiked meat, or some such nefarious plan, I erected a large chain link kennel up against the house with a pet door into the garage. And of course I padlocked the gate to the kennel as well. And then it was only there for emergencies because he was an indoor dog, as are all of mine

Catherine C.
Catherine Cabout a year ago

My husband I and just got a GPS tracker for our Maltipoo (Biscuit) we had a scare when I was giving birth to our second kid and my husband went home to change. When the pound found Biscuit his Micro-chip info was outdated and our phone number had changed. We just received our order from thepawtracker.com and are super happy with the results.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey1 years ago


federico bortoletto


lesley turnbull
lesley turnbull1 years ago

First off it is my opinion that theft is not punished severely enough in this country. Thieves are almost always repeat offenders, many having been caught over and over again.
Second, pets are not valued highly enough by the court system. Maybe if they were charged with kidnapping when caught many would think twice.
This is a real shame...hopefully the dog may still be recovered. Fingers crossed.

Carole R.
Carole R1 years ago

It is so sad that you can't even let your dog run in his own back yard without worry. They need that freedom and exercise.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa1 years ago

Thank you

Mary B.
.1 years ago

My rescue dog is family !! She is microchipped and never outside alone. Please be careful of your 4 legged family members :-)

JD She
JD She1 years ago