Doggone It! Canine Thefts On The Rise

Aug 20, 2011
Originally published on August 20, 2011 11:26 am

Dognappings have risen 49 percent in the U.S. in 2011, according to data gathered by the American Kennel Club.

"We believe the increase is due to economic times," Lisa Peterson, a spokesperson for the nonprofit group, which has been tracking pet theft for several years, tells Weekend Edition Saturday guest host Jacki Lyden.

"You have people who want pets ... but can't afford to purchase them or pay the adoption fees, so we find that they're just taking them for themselves or to give them as gifts," she says. "But then on the other hand, you have the criminal element that steals dogs and tries to sell them to unsuspecting buyers."

Peterson says the top two ways dogs are being stolen are during home invasions and out of parked cars. She cites a case in Florida where criminals took a 55-inch television set and also Boo-Boo, the Yorkshire terrier, with all of his belongings.

Tying up a dog in front of a store also makes it vulnerable for theft.

Dog theft can not only be traumatic for the owner, she says, but also for the dog.

"Dogs thrive on routine," Peterson says. "They're valued family members, so there's actually two victims to the crimes here: There's the owner, who's missing their lovable pet, and also the poor dog, [which] is suffering perhaps a little anxiety, not knowing what's going on."

Peterson says the best step dog owners can take to protect their pets, especially with recovery, is to have a microchip implanted.

There are also common-sense, close-to-home measures like not letting your dog off its leash or leaving it unattended in your yard.

In addition, Peterson says, dog owners should be cautious with information they tell strangers.

"We saw a man in Tulsa, Okla., who was approached by a man in a park, [who asked] about his adorable pit bull puppy," she says. "Then apparently the criminal followed him home and the next morning broke into the house, tied up the family at gunpoint and stole the puppy."

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JACKI LYDEN, Host:

Lisa Peterson, welcome to the show.

LISA PETERSON: Thank you, Jacki.

LYDEN: Well, this is disturbing. Why is there such an increase in dognappings?

PETERSON: Well, the American Kennel Club has been tracking pet theft for several years now. And we believe the increase is due to economic times. You have people who want pets, either purebreds or mixed breeds, but can't afford to purchase them or pay the adoption fee. So we find that they're just taking them for themselves or to give them as gifts. But then on the other hand, you have the criminal element that steals dogs and tries to sell them to unsuspecting buyers.

LYDEN: I think we've all seen various cities outside the coffee shop, bookstore, you name it, somebody goes in, of course, the animals are usually not allowed to come in. and they're tied up out on the street. Is that how pets are getting stolen or are people coming into homes or what?

PETERSON: So it's really a variety of different ways, including being tied up in front of a store. I mean, that makes your dog just extremely vulnerable for pet theft.

LYDEN: You know, there's something so heartbreaking about a dog being stolen. It sort of seems like the ultimate indignity.

PETERSON: You know, dogs thrive on routine and they love their owners. And we love them, too. I mean, they're valued family members. So there's actually two victims to the crime here. There's the owner who's missing their lovable pet, and also the poor dog is suffering perhaps a little anxiety, not knowing what's going on. You know, it can be traumatic for both parties.

LYDEN: I imagine many people are wondering what steps they can take to protect their pets.

PETERSON: We saw a man in Tulsa, Oklahoma who was approached by a man in a park, asked him about his adorable pit bull puppy, then apparently the criminal followed him home and the next morning broke into the house, tied up the family at gunpoint and stole the puppy.

LYDEN: Thank you.

PETERSON: Thank you, Jacki.

LYDEN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.