BY JANET McAFEE
I noticed a beautiful Bluenose pit bull dog tied up to a post outside Trader Joe’s in Palm Desert while shopping there recently. Assuming the owner was inside I waited by the animal for someone to return. The young man was polite when I told him about the danger of pet theft, and we discussed how this particular breed would be on the desired list of many thieves. He naively believed his dog was safe because he was in an “economically advantaged” area.
The American Kennel Club reports a 70% increase in dog theft in recent years. One woman in New Mexico was arrested and charged with stealing over 50 neighborhood dogs. With so many homeless animals available, why would anyone want to steal one? What are some of the things you can do to protect your pets from this crime? Here are some of the ways dogs are stolen.
- DOGS LEFT IN CARS
There are many reasons not to leave your dog alone in a car, including death from heat stroke. A Coachella Valley resident dashed inside to pick up fast food one afternoon, leaving her automobile running with her two small dogs inside. A thief stole her car with the two dogs inside. Through good detective work, the dogs were recovered. It only takes a second for a thief to force down a partially open car window, or smash a window. A dog can be stolen from a locked car in about 20 seconds, less time than it takes you to run that quick errand.
- HIGHLY PRIZED BREEDS
Pure breed dogs attract more thieves because they can be resold for a large amount of cash. The most targeted breeds include Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians and Boston Terriers. Sadly, pit bulls may be stolen by criminals seeking to engage in dog fighting.
- DOGS IN BACKYARDS
Keep an eye on them when your dog is in the back yard, especially if you have a doggie door. If you are away from home, it is important to keep your pets inside. If your dog is friendly, a thief can steal him in about 30 seconds from your yard.
- PETS TIED UP IN FRONT OF BUSINESSES
You pop into Starbucks and tie Benji up to a table outside. Thieves assume these animals have a gentle nature and are easy prey. No one even notices when a stranger takes him by the leash and casually walks away. Rather than risk your dog being stolen, risk the ire of the shop manager and take your dog inside when you run errands. Many businesses will not object to your bringing a well behaved dog inside.
- STRANGERS AND WORKMEN
Any person coming into your home or neighborhood can be a thief surveying your property and the pets living there. Drug addicts, always in need of quick cash, check out the valuable tools in your garage and make a note of your cute Shih Tzu peering out the side fence. They are not concerned about how stealing a pet could break your heart. They view the animal as an easy $100 bill.
WHY DO THIEVES STEAL DOGS? Your worst nightmare when Benji goes missing is to never know his fate. Your beloved dog could end up as bait in a dog fighting ring, or sold to a laboratory for experimental testing. Drug addicts and petty thieves view your animals as a source of quick cash. Other people may feel justified in stealing your dog if they believe it is not well cared for or running loose in the neighborhood. Other times, taking someone’s pet is an act of revenge. Keep your pet micro chipped and tagged with identification to facilitate his return if he goes missing or is stolen. Have a good photograph of your pet to use for flyers and Facebook postings in case he goes missing for any reason. Be safe, be vigilant, and treasure your precious pet!