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Has Fido Vanished? This Happens More Often Than You’d Think…

In late June, Douglas Gracia became the victim of a gut-wrenching, tunnel-vision-inducing horror that many pet owners can only dream of enduring: his puppies, two English bulldogs, were stolen after someone broke into the house through his kitchen window.

“I didn’t go to sleep for two days,” he told Q13 Fox. “…I’ve been on Craigslist doing nothing but looking for my dogs.”

One was found, but the other, as of June 30, was still missing. At that time, he listed a $500 reward for the puppy’s safe return.

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Gracia is only one of the many owners who have been affected by dognapping. Approximately 15 cases per month take place in Albuquerque. In Wise County, Texas, 40 dogs disappeared over a 90-day period. It happens in other countries, too, like China and Great Britain.

Dog theft is not only widespread but also on the rise; in 2013, the number of cases spiked 31 percent in the U.S.

It’s a terrifying situation for dog owners everywhere.

Why do people do this?

There are many different reasons. In most cases, it’s about money. Thieves often steal popular breeds—purebreds, that is—and sell them to uninformed dog shoppers. They might also hope to earn a quick buck by “finding” the lost dog and reaping reward money. Thieves could even hold dogs hostage and dangle a ransom over owners’ heads; that happened this year to the owners of a Yorkie. Sometimes crooks will snatch a dog simply because they want a dog.

Then there are more stomach-churning cases. Stolen dogs might be exchanged for cash at puppy mills, or they might be sold illegally to research/veterinary institutions. They could also enter dog fighting rings, acting as bait for fighting dogs. In China, they could become meat for the Yulin Dog Festival.

How do they do it?

Dognappers have several ample opportunities in which to act. They might nab a dog left alone in public (e.g. dogs left in cars, dogs tied outside shops, etc.), steal one from an unsupervised/unsecured yard, or—when doing work in a dog owner’s house—may grab the pooch when its humans aren’t looking. As was the case in Gracia’s experience, thieves may even break into houses and steal pets.

What breeds do thieves target?

It varies by location. In the U.K., the most popular breeds are

In the U.S., the most popular breeds include

  • Yorkies
  • Pomeranians
  • Malteses
  • Boston Terriers
  • French Bulldogs
  • Chihuahuas
  • Labradoodles
  • American Pit Bull Terriers (a breed commonly used for dog fighting)
  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retrievers

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I think my dog has been stolen. What should I do?

First of all, don’t panic. It’ll only make things worse, so take a minute to breathe deeply. Remember: just because your furbaby is missing doesn’t mean s/he has been stolen. Look everywhere you can think to look, especially if you last saw him/her on your own property.

Next, call your local police and file a report. If officers hesitate to write one up, remind them that the thief’s actions are considered a criminal offense. By law, they must take that seriously.

After that, keep looking. Check Craigslist or your local newspaper, which might tell you if someone has found/is trying to sell your dog. You can also post “lost dog” listings there. Physically visit animal shelters and look for your pooch, or make enquiries to veterinary centers and research facilities. Post flyers that include photos of your pet and your contact information, both at shelters and on the streets. Pet FBI recommends that you mention a reward without mentioning how much it’ll entail; this might entice the thief, especially if s/he is out to make a profit on your dog.

And whatever you do, don’t give up. Acting immediately and putting forth all your energy into the search will increase your chances of being reunited with your beloved pet.

How can I prevent this kind of disaster?

Because dog thieves seize the opportunity when owners’ eyes are averted, keep tabs on your dog at all times in public places. Don’t leave him/her alone. Keep your dog on a leash when he goes outside, or at least keep close watch of him.

In case your dog is stolen, there are measures you can take beforehand to prevent the incident from turning into a catastrophe. Spay or neuter to keep your furbaby out of both puppy mills and research labs. You can also ask your vet to implant a microchip so that Good Samaritans can reunite you with your pet.

Bottom line is, employ basic caution, and keep an open-minded, “this could happen to me” attitude. Doing this will ensure that your friend remains safe and yours for life.

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A. Stout is a Whovian, Potterhead, study abroad alumna, and animal lover. A native to West Michigan, she dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world.