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Beware of Dog-Nappers


Article from USA Today

By Lisa Peterson, Special for USA TODAY

In just one month this summer, dog-nappers snatched a puppy from a 5-year-old child's lap in a public park in Idaho, a Lhasa Apso from a backyard in North Carolina and a 16-week-old boxer from the owner's yard in Oklahoma.

The American Kennel Club first alerted the public to this growing trend in April 2008 and has continued to informally track incidents of dog theft. In 2008, at least 71 dog thefts were covered in media reports; so far this year, there have been more than 100. In response, a number of states have considered legislation that would address pet theft. The Texas legislature, for example, considered a law making pet theft a felony, while California and Delaware have tried to regulate roadside pet sales, where stolen pets are often resold.

There are many reasons why someone would steal a pet, but primarily, criminals have become aware of the financial and emotional value dogs have in a society that increasingly regards pets as family members. Some thieves aim to collect a ransom (and a few successfully have, as in a recent California incident where the pet owner paid $10,000 for the return of a dog taken from her parked car); others are simply trying to make a few hundred dollars by selling the dog to unsuspecting buyers. Some thieves may want to keep the pets as their own.

Here are some tips to help you avoid falling victim to pet-nappers:


• Don't leave your dog unattended in your yard. Dogs left outdoors for long periods are targets, especially if your fenced-in yard is visible from the street.

• Be cautious with information. If strangers approach to admire your dog during walks, don't answer questions about how much the dog cost or give details about where you live.

• Never leave your dog in an unattended car, even if it's locked. Besides the obvious health risks this poses to the dog, it's also an invitation for thieves, even if you are gone for only a moment. Leaving expensive items in the car such as a GPS unit or laptop will only encourage break-ins and possibly allow the dog to escape, even if the thieves don't decide to steal the pet, too.

• Don't tie your dog outside a store. This popular practice among city-dwelling dog owners can be a recipe for disaster. If you need to go shopping, patronize only dog-friendly retailers or leave the dog at home.


• Protect your dog with microchip identification. Keep contact information current with your microchip recovery service provider.

• If you suspect your dog has been stolen, call the police/animal control officer in the area your pet was last seen. File a police report. If your dog has a microchip, ask to have that unique serial number and the dog's description posted in the "stolen article" list on the National Crime Information Center.

• Have fliers with a recent photo ready to go if your dog goes missing. Keep several current photos (profile and headshot) of your dog in your wallet or on an easily accessible web account so you can distribute immediately if your pet goes missing.

• Call the local TV station, radio station and newspaper and ask to have a Web post put out about your missing pet.

Careful purchase

• Don't buy stolen pets. Don't buy dogs from the Internet, flea markets or roadside vans. There is simply no way to verify where an animal purchased from any of these outlets came from. Websites and online classifieds are easily falsified, and with roadside or flea market purchases not only do you not know the pet's origins, you will never be able to find or identify the seller in case of a problem.

• Even newspaper ads may be suspect. Adult dogs offered for sale at reduced prices, for a "relocation" fee, or accompanied by requests for last-minute shipping fees are red flags. Dog owners who truly love their animals and are unable to keep them will find a loving home without compensation for re-homing the animal.

• Seek out reputable breeders or rescue groups. Visit the home of the breeder, meet the puppy's mother and see the litter of puppies. Developing a good relationship with the breeder will bring you peace of mind when purchasing. Contacting rescue groups can also be a safe alternative


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