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5 Ways Thieves Could Steal Your Dog

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


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10:47PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

I guess the best thing to remember now days is that, "we aren't in Kansas anymore", meaning, we can't take for granted, that our pets will remain safe; while we go about our seemingly normal, day to day activities I cringe when I see a dog tied up outside a store, what a perfect set up for a dog to be swiped. I find myself watching out for the dog, even while I'm in the store, or keeping an eye out for the owner. If someone will come into a fenced yard and take a dog, we know it's serious. (hopefully the gate was locked) Maybe the best bet at home, would be locked kennels/enclosures, when owners are home...and of course dogs left indoors when we're not. The thought of your dog, being used as a bait dog, being badly hurt, confused and lonely for it's family, or even killed, or being experimented on, in horrible, extremely painful ways in labs, should be enough to make everyone wake up a little bit. Take extra care, be alert and take precautions, and don't think for a minute, it's just business as usual anymore.

9:44PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

These evil people are everywhere. Watch your pets!

9:28PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

I had my pure breed female blue pit bull stolen out my backyard. Someone had the audacity to go in my backyard and steal my dog from under my nose. It started raining about 9ish so I went out to get her and she was gone. I came in to tell my husband and he thought I was that moment we were stunned and in disbelief....Well about 10:30 am I am in the living room doing my daughter's hair when my 3 year looked out the window and said "Brooklyn" The way she said it was like she was happy to see her....I looked out the window and there she was.....we couldnt believe it, she escaped her captors and came home. Which let me know it was someone in the neighborhood. Well about 3 minutes later these two young boys walked up the block. I would guess 4th and 1st grade....the 4th grader looked at me in the window and clicked, they took the dog and was looking for her. The 1st grader was crying like it was his dog that he lost. My husband opened the door and said "Have yall seen my dog?"and they were stunned by the question...they played it off and asked what does she look like. Well the 4th grader walked around the block twice as if he was looking for Brooklyn. I think our dog reminded him of his dog because they have a dog who looks similar, but she is grown with saggy titties. I believed they wanted my dog for personal and breeding purposes. I am still amazed that she found her way back home! Especially since only about 10% of dogs are returned to their owners. WOW!

10:00AM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

A dognapping almost happened to me while I was housesitting in an upscale Dc neighborhood.
i let a beautiful 130 lb Weimaraner out in a fenced backyard, while i emptied the dishwasher at 6am. When i glanced outside, i saw a woman walking towards the dog. Grabbed a kitchen knife, i ran outside and asked her what she was doing. She muttered something about the storm door and i told her to get out of the yard & never come back. I spoke with a neighbor, and he said she was probably going to steal the Weimaraner to sell him to a medical lab in Maryland...I was horrified. I believe she thought she could grab the dog, because it was so early in the morning and i was probably getting ready for work. I warned the owner & we never let the dog in the yard without a guardian.

4:03PM PST on Feb 27, 2014

Thanks for this important article!

11:02AM PST on Nov 15, 2013

A Heartless Crime :( Thanks for Sharing.

6:49PM PDT on Oct 18, 2013

Pretty sad state of affairs in this society that we even have to think of things like this happening.

3:15PM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

i know, but sickening to imagine how many people are clueless

12:28AM PDT on Sep 5, 2013


10:45PM PDT on Sep 4, 2013

Thank you.

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