How to Prevent Dog Thefts

Last week I wrote about how a local story on the rise of dog thefts had me completely freaked out, especially since I travel solo with Toby a lot. Plus, BlogPaws was just around the corner and we would be traveling in the peak of summer vacations, and I was sure to have to make a stop on the way.

Ines de Pablo, executive director of Pet Emergency Management Division at Wag’N Enterprises, provided us with some tips on how to help prevent dog thefts and help stop them. Wag’N offers pet parents and first responders the necessary gear, supplies and training to effectively mitigate, prepare and respond to emergencies that impact pet health and safety.

To understand the multimillion dollar business of dognapping, we need to know why people steal the animals.

Why pets are stolen
1. Being sold to research laboratories or pet stores
2. Being subjected to sadistic acts by psychopathic individuals
3. Becoming bait or fighters for dog-fighting rings
4. Being used as puppy mill breeders
5. Being sold as meat to feed exotic pets or humans
6. Having their fur made into clothing and accessories. It’s hard to distinguish cat fur from rabbit or shepherd from fox!
7. As people seek breeding partners for their dogs
8. As “concerned citizens” following a disaster”
9. Because “OMG its so cute I want it”

Pet Theft Prevention Tips

1. Pets should wear tags at all times. Rabies and license/registration tags are required by law in most municipalities. A tattoo/microchip warning tag (if appropriate) warns finders that your pet is permanently identified (tattoos may be hard to see on longhaired pets, and microchips can’t be seen at all) and gives them a central registry phone number to call. Lost pets without tags – especially cats – often don’t get reclaimed.

2. Tattoo and/or microchip all pets for positive identification (it’s best to do both). Tattoo your social security number, drivers license number (be sure to include your state) or your purebred pet’s registration number (be sure to include registry initials: AKC, UKC, CFA, etc.) inside the thigh or on the belly (ears can be torn due to injury, or cut off).

3. Register all tattoos or microchips with the appropriate registry. An unregistered tattoo or microchip is useless. The person who tattoos your pet or injects the microchip should give you information on how to register it.

4. Confine your pets. The safest place for them when you’re not home is indoors. This includes cats, too!

5. Padlock Gates. If you must leave your dog outside in a fenced yard, at least make it difficult for others to get to him. Padlocks and chains should be placed high, so the ground can’t be used as leverage for bolt cutters.

6. Fit an alarm/bell to your gate so that you can hear visitors/trespassers enter your property.

7. Dogs that are kept tied in unfenced yards should be located out of view of passersby. The fence needs to be at least 6 feet high and padlocked.

8. Never let your dog off his chain or leash – even for a minute – if you won’t be right there to watch him the whole time! In most places it’s illegal, and it’s an open invitation for trouble!

9. Train your dog not to go out of your sight on walks. Use an extending lead if the dog does not comply. Vary your walk times and routes.

10. Don’t leave your dog tied in public places while you go in stores to shop! In VA it happens to be illegal. If the dog must go shopping with make sure you only go to stores that allow the dog to enter. Otherwise leave the dog at home.

11. If you have a doggy door. Lock it when you are not home! Let the dog do its business before you leave, let him in, lock door. Keeps it safe from snakes, wasps and bees and thieves.

12. Spay and neuter all pets. This makes them less inclined to wander, and eliminates any resale value for breeding purposes.

13. If a stranger approaches you about buying or breeding to your pet, tell him the pet has been spayed or neutered, even if it hasn’t. WRITE DOWN the person’s name, address, and license plate number, and keep a close eye on your pet afterwards!

14. Do not put your pet’s name on his ID tag or display it on his dog house. A pet is much more likely to go to (and with) a stranger who calls him by name.

15. Do not talk to strangers about the value, bloodlines, training or special abilities of your pet.

1. If your pet loses its tags, get replacements right away! Remember, in order for the tags to protect your pet, your pet must be wearing the tags!

17. Slip collars (aka choke chains) are for training or walking only; pets should wear flat or rolled buckle collars for everyday use, and tags should be attached to the buckle collar.

18. On the Road: 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 it too.

So, what happened if your pet is stolen?

Walk, drive or bicycle around the area your pet disappeared, calling your animal’s name over and over. If your pet is trapped in a neighbor’s yard or is too injured to move, it may respond to your voice, so listen carefully. Pay special attention to sheds, abandoned buildings and anywhere else your pet could be hiding. Perform this search several times throughout the day.

Talk to your neighbors and engage them in the search. Involving the neighbors by knocking on their doors is more pro-active then just posting paper in the street. You can ask questions, hand them your number, engage them to keep an eye out because you now have engaged them in a behavioral/emotional quest.
Create and post signs with a photo of your pet that gives a description of the animal, the area in which he or she was lost and contact information. Be sure to place the fliers in your neighborhood as well as in places where many people are likely to see them such as grocery stores, pet supply stores, veterinarians’ offices, animal shelters and pounds. If possible, offer a reward of at least $300 to give people an incentive to return your pet.

Go to the animal shelter and pound often to look at the animals being held as strays. Check to see if the animal shelter or pound has a website with photos. Visits in person are much more effective as shelter/pound employees may not match a particular animal to a lost report over the phone. You are the only one who can really identify your lost animal. Visit the shelter for a minimum of ten days.

Contact veterinary clinics, including emergency veterinary hospitals. Your pet may have been injured and taken to a veterinarian or veterinary hospital for treatment.

Contact local daily and weekly newspapers to place a lost pet ad. Also, check the “found animal” section of local newspapers. Contact the media – Call the local TV station, radio station and newspaper and ask to have a web post put out about your missing pet.
Contact local radio and television stations. Many air “lost and found pets” segments.

Ask delivery people who regularly travel through your neighborhood if they have seen your pet. Your mail carrier, water delivery person, gas company employee, security guard or meter reader may have seen your pet. Ask them to be on the lookout for your animal as they pass through the area.

Contact laboratory animal departments of universities and hospitals in your area. Go to the labs and describe your animal to laboratory personnel. Post a photo of your animal in the laboratory.

File a police report with your local police department or sheriff’s office. If you suspect that your animal has been stolen, report it to the police immediately. A police report will be useful for identification purposes when retrieving your pet and will prove helpful in court if a suspect is brought to trial. If the authorities are hesitant to prepare the report, remind them that pets by law are valuable “property” and their theft is either a felony or misdemeanor under all state laws. By law, the police must take action on your complaint. Be persistent.

Post a description and photo of your lost pet on the internet at www.petfinder.com. And www.helplostpet.com

Do not give up! Your pet is depending on you to do your best to try to find him or her. There are many instances of cats and dogs being found after many months. The person who responds immediately to a missing pet and expends significant energy in trying to find the animal stands a much greater chance of recovering him or her.

Let’s hope we never need this last set of tips.

Stay safe, and thanks again to Ines for providing such detailed tips!

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