Tying up our pooch to run in and grab a quick cup of coffee around the corner, cracking the car windows for Spot while we drop a package at the post office: We’ve all left our dogs alone for what seems like an innocent few minutes. Sadly, those days of blindly trusting passersby are becoming fewer and farther between. With a scary trend known as “dognapping” on the rise, there’s never been a better time to brush up on Stranger Danger 101.
What is dognapping?
We wish dognapping were a hot new fad in putting our pets on a sleeping schedule, but alas, this is not the case. Dognapping is a terrifying act in which your dog is ‘napped in return for ransom money or a re-homing fee. While it sounds like something that would never happen in your neighborhood, it’s turning into a seriously common (and seriously sad) way for people to make a little extra cash—especially with the value of purebred and designer breeds clocking in at upwards of $2,000.
How does it happen?
While some dognappings happen during home break-ins or even while your furry friend is enjoying a little fresh air in the yard, thieves often strike at more opportunistic moments that require less work, such as the aforementioned all-too-familiar situations: When you leave your dog tied up outside a store or in a car.
How can I prevent dognapping?
- Microchip! Whether your dog is ‘napped or simply gets off his leash for a little joy ride of his own doing, the best thing you can do to ensure he winds up in your arms instead of the arms of a stranger is get him microchipped. And in the event your pal happens to run next door to a friendly neighbor (we’ve all been there!), make sure your dog is wearing a collar with tags and up-to-date contact information.
- As much as we love running errands with our dogs (and as much as they love sticking their heads out the window during said errands), it’s best to leave them at home unless you’re visiting a known dog-friendly establishment. Fortunately, plenty of cities are becoming more and more dog-friendly. But if there’s any chance you’ll have to leave Fido at the door, it’s better to play it safe and leave him at home instead.
- While chances of a thief entering your backyard (or even worse, your home) aren’t as likely as swiping your dog in a public place, it’s important to keep an eye out just in case. Watch your dog during potty breaks, and pay extra attention during play dates at off-leash dog parks.
- Keep a tight leash. We sometimes get lax when it comes to walking or running with our much-trusted dogs in much-trusted places, but a leash not only adds an extra sense of comfort that your dog won’t find himself in harm’s way (i.e. traffic), but also keeps him away from potential dognappers. If someone stops to say hi, keep details to a minimum and be cautious of revealing any personal information about you or your pet, such as how much he cost.
- Adopt smartly. If you’re purchasing a pet from an advertisement such as a flyer or Craigslist, make sure you’re not unknowingly taking part in a dognapping. Ask for proof of ownership before you proceed.
What if I become a victim?
- Put out the call to every shelter within a 50 mile radius of your home and swing by each shelter daily, if possible. If you believe your dog was dognapped, alert the police, too.
- Do a neighborhood sweep. Sometimes our dogs just wander off to the neighbor’s yard, but if your dog was stolen, there’s always a chance a neighbor saw an unfamiliar person in the area. Ask everyone in your neighborhood if they know anything about your missing pet or saw anything suspicious, and hand out flyers with a photo and information to mailmen and delivery people in the event they see something on their route.
- Speaking of flyers, post ‘em everywhere! Local coffee shops, grocery stores, light poles, etc. Include a photo with a list of descriptive characteristics, but be sure to leave out one or two. In the event someone finds your dog, it’s important to have them name the missing characteristics to confirm they do indeed have your dog and aren’t trying to scam you for money.
- Check Craigslist or other online pet-finding services. It’s often the first place people turn when an untagged dog shows up at their front door!
Is your dog one of the most commonly stolen breeds? Here’s our list of the top 10 most frequently stolen dog breeds:
10. Labrador retriever
9. German Shepherd
8. Pit bull terrier
5. French bulldog
4. Boston terrier
1. Yorkshire terrier