It’s Pet Theft Awareness Week in the U.K., but pet theft is a worldwide problem. It extends from the USA, where pets are commonly stolen to be used as bait in underground pit bull fighting rings, to Asia, where the dog meat trade is still ongoing despite worldwide protest. “Pet flipping” is a common issue, wherein someone’s pet is stolen and then sold for cash. Petfinder reports that an estimated 10 million pets are lost or stolen in the USA every year.
Pet theft is a heartbreaking violation that can be life-altering for victims who love their pets and lose them. But organizations are working to change the ever-growing statistics, by educating the public and encouraging the use of technology to protect pets. The American Kennel Club has suggestions for keeping your pet safe. These include the following.
- Microchipping your pet
Microchipping your pet is probably the most effective way to ensure its safe return. ABC News reported last November about a dog named Willie was returned to his Las Vegas family after going missing on a road trip 6 years prior. He was found via his microchip.
- Have your pet tattooed.
A tattoo is always a good idea, as it provides a visible and permanent form of identification. Don’t put the tattoo on the ear, however, as the ear can be removed. A better place is the abdomen or flank.
Ariana’s stylist and friend Rio Warner has lost her dog and is heartbroken about it. Please spread this! pic.twitter.com/rmPF9GDOCE
— ArianaGrande Updates (@AriAlwaysUpdate) March 20, 2016
- Keep a file with updated photos
It’s always good to keep information updated about your pet, including height, weight, age, and any health issues they may have. Collars with ID tags are a good idea too, although they can be lost.
- Don’t leave your dog in an unlocked car or tied outside a store, or even unattended in your yard.
Think of your dog as being like a toddler. That is how closely you should watch him. It’s amazing how quickly your pet can disappear, even if you leave him for “just a minute.”
- Surveillance cameras are always a good idea.
Placing warning signs on your door or property can warn away would-be thieves who don’t want to be identified.
- Spay and neuter your pet.
StolenPet.com points out that neutered animals are less likely to stray, and makes them less likely to be taken for breeding purposes.
— BVA (@BritishVets) March 13, 2016
According to an article in Mom.me, while all dogs are vulnerable, some breeds are targeted more than others. This can depend on several factors, including breed popularity and the ease of concealing and moving the dog. Owners of these breeds should be especially aware of their pet’s vulnerability. Here is a list of the most popular dogs to be stolen:
- Yorkshire Terrier
- French Bulldog
- Boston Terrier
- Pit Bull
- German shepherd
- Labrador retriever
Note that many of these breeds are “pocket pets,” tiny dogs that will fit into a handbag. Any breed of dog which is portable, from a Chihuahua to a Yorkie or even a tiny mixed breed, is at high risk of theft.
Breeds like the French Bulldog and Sheltie are immensely popular and quickly snapped up if they go missing. At that point, getting the dog back becomes the problem of wresting it from the new owner. A good example is the story of Tipsy, who was found in a shelter and adopted.
Designer breeds like Labradoodles, though they might be huge and goofy, and a little harder to conceal, are prized by “dog flippers.” The designer breeds can bring a high dollar on the pet black market.
As the article in Mom.me points out, “crime begets crime,” and dogs like pit bulls are subject to theft by people who supply dogs to fighting rings. Even if the pit bull is not aggressive, he can still be targeted. The same goes for protection dogs like German shepherds or Dobermans.
The Labrador retriever, America’s most popular breed of dog for over a quarter century, is notorious for its friendly disposition. A Labrador is easy to flip, readily available, and happy to go home with just about anyone. As with the other popular breeds listed, the things we love most about them are the things that make them most vulnerable.
— Rick’s Dog Deli (@RicksDogDeli) March 19, 2016
If your dog goes missing, be aggressive. Call the police immediately. Call animal control. Call the local media, and make good use of one of the best tools available: Social media.
Hopefully, maintaining awareness will prevent pet theft from ever happening to you. By taking precautions, you can enjoy many long, uninterrupted years with your best friend.
[Image via Anna Titova/Shutterstock]