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Pet Theft: What Every Pet Owner Should Know
February 1, 2024

Unfortunately, pet theft is on the rise. About two million dogs are stolen here in the United States every year. That is a pretty heartbreaking—and staggering—statistic. Even worse, only one in ten of those stolen pups is returned to their human parents. A local Norwalk, CA veterinarian offers some insights on this topic below.

How Many Pets Are Stolen Each Year?

Any pet is at risk here. Although certain types of pets are at greater risk than others, thieves can find an opportunity in almost any animal. The vast majority of pets are stolen by ‘flippers’ who intend to resell them at a profit. This is an appealing option for thieves, as they don’t have to put in a lot of effort. Sadly, some pets are taken to train fighting dogs or to be sold to laboratories. 

What Dogs Are Stolen The Most?

In most cases, thieves steal purebred dogs. French Bulldogs are a top choice, since they are not only quite expensive, but also small enough to be carried away. Designer dogs, such as Labradoodles, are also highly sought after.

These are the most stolen dog breeds:

  • German Shepherd
  • Chihuahua   
  • Pit Bull
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • French Bulldog   
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Labradoodle  
  • Boston Terrier   
  • Maltese   
  • Pomeranian   
  • Yorkshire Terrier

For more information, contact your Norwalk, CA veterinarian.

What To Do If Your Pet Is Stolen

Being the victim of a pet theft can be both terrifying and traumatic. However, there are things you can—and should—do if this happens to you. Acting immediately can greatly increase the chance of getting your pet back.

First and foremost, contact law enforcement right away. If you have any evidence, such as video or a description, provide that. You may also need to provide proof of ownership, such as adoption or medical records.

Next, you’ll want to create a flier. Include as much information as possible about your pet.

We recommend adding the following details:

  • Size
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Markings
  • Breed (Note: Keep in mind that if your pooch isn’t a commonly-known breed, people may not make the connection by name alone.)
  • Photos are also very important. Choose ones from different angles, if possible
  • When and where your pet was last seen
  • Reward. This is extremely important! The promise of a reward can go a long way towards motivating people to return the pet. You can also offer a reward for information, though you should consult your local police department first

If your pet has a medical issue and/or was rescued, mention that as well. People may be more inclined to return pets if you tug at their heartstrings.

Post the flier on all of your local social media pages. Look for lost/missing pet groups and pages in your city, county, state, and area to share it with. You can also send it to veterinary clinics, shelters, rescue groups, and dog parks. You can also put printed copies up in small local shops and delis, or anywhere with a community bulletin board.

If you suspect someone specific of stealing your pet, contact the police instead of trying to approach them yourself. That could go wrong in a variety of ways, some of which could be very dangerous. Moreover, it increases the likelihood that your pet will be quickly taken elsewhere, further reducing your chances of recovering them.

How To Search For A Stolen Pet

In addition to making that flier and contacting authorities, you should do a thorough walk-through of your area. Call your pet’s name, in case they answer. Look in empty properties and wooded lots in case they have escaped.

Watch local marketplaces, such as those on Facebook and Craigslist. It may also be a good idea for you to post a classified ad about your missing pet.

Finally, check local shelters within an hour’s drive.  You can also alert nearby veterinary clinics.

Don’t give up! Many pets have been reunited with their humans after years apart.

What Can I Do To Keep My Pet Safe From Thieves?

Even though there is no way to guarantee that a pet won’t get lost or stolen, there are definitely things you can do to reduce the chances of it happening.

Spaying/Neutering: First and foremost, make sure that your pet has been fixed. Unfortunately, some people steal pets for puppy mills. While laws are cracking down on puppy mills in many places, there are still plenty of them around. Another benefit of getting your pet fixed is that they’ll be calmer and less likely to bolt. Intact dogs and cats are much more likely to run off in search of love.

Microchipping: Microchipping your pet is also important. Microchips have helped reunite thousands of lost or stolen pets with their worried humans, sometimes years after they went missing. Your information should be up to date in the chip manufacturer’s registry. That chip won’t work if your contact information is outdated or missing. To check your records, you can use the Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool here. This is very important, because these records can hold up in a court of law.

Tags: The ID tag is also essential, and is a legal requirement in many places. It is the easiest way for someone to contact you if their pet is found. It is also important to include the word ‘reward’ on the tag as well. Having GPS tags and collars is definitely a plus. While these are not permanent, they can sometimes provide enough information to provide a solid lead.

Last but not least, keep your pet contained at all times. If you have a dog, keep Fido leashed when walking him. Fenced yards are great, but if you have a purebred dog and a low fence that backs up against a busy sidewalk, your pup might be vulnerable. Another note about fencing: pet theft is one potential downside of invisible fences: thieves are not hindered by the fence, and they can easily remove a pet’s collar.

As far as cats go, we recommend keeping Fluffy inside. This not only helps keep her safe from thieves, keeping her indoors will also protect her against other hazards, such as cars and the weather.

Consider adding extra security. A doorbell camera may not stop thieves, but may help identify them. Thick shrubs can also help by making a barrier that is hard to cross.

Lastly, we recommend paying attention to what’s going on around you. For example, if you see a car slowly driving by while your dog is out in the yard, it’s probably best to play it safe and take Fido inside.

What Is The Most Common Method Of Pet Theft?

The majority of pet thefts occur when pets are left alone outdoors or in unsecured spaces. Small dogs are particularly at risk, as they can be carried. Never leave your pet unsupervised outside.

What Can I Do To Help Stop Pet Theft?

Good Samaritans can do a few things. If you have the time, you can browse local lost and found ads to see if any of them match. However, if you do spot anything, contact the police or the owner: don’t try to get involved directly. Spreading awareness is also helpful. Always make sure proof of ownership is provided when you are looking for a new pet.

In Conclusion: Sadly, millions of pets are stolen every year. There are things you can do to protect your pet from theft, such as ensuring they are fixed, microchipped, and ensuring that your pet is wearing identification tags.

Contact us, your local vet hospital, if you have any questions about pet theft or need to schedule microchipping or spay/neuter surgery.

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