Do you remember when Lady Gaga’s French Bulldogs were stolen and her dog walker shot? If not, the short version is her dog walker was taking the pups for their evening walk in Los Angeles when a sedan pulled up next to him and demanded the dogs at gunpoint. The thieves proceeded to grab the dogs and shoot the dog walker.
Fortunately, the dog walker, Ryan Fischer, recovered, and the entertainer got her dogs back. It turns out this wasn’t some out-of-control fandom but rather a high-profile dognapping case.
Sadly, pet thieves are on the rise. In the U.S., Petfinder reports around 200 million pets are stolen annually! It only takes a brief internet search to turn up dozens of horrific tales of beloved purebred dogs stolen at gunpoint. Pet theft isn’t confined to big cities like New York and L.A. either; it’s happening in rural and suburban places too.
It seems dog thieves see pet theft as a chance to make easy money. How can dog owners protect their fur friends from being another dognapping case?
What are the most common breeds thieves are after?
As you can imagine, small dogs are at the top of the list regarding the types of dogs pet thieves target. In part, it’s logistics; small dogs are easier to grab and run. One of the most targeted small dogs is the French Bulldog.
In recent years, French Bulldogs or “Frenchies” have risen to #2 on the most popular dog breed lists, so they’re in high demand. The average price for a Frenchie is $2,800 though they can go much higher!
Other small dogs on the most stolen types of dogs list include Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Maltese, Boston Terriers, and Chihuahuas. However, any small pure-bred dog is at risk.
Other breeds targeted by pet thieves include Labrador retrievers, Pit bulls, Siberian huskies, and German Shepherds.
What do the dog thieves do with the stolen dogs?
Those dognappers who target purebred puppies may intend them for resale. Or, they may want to collect reward money from the original dog owner.
In the case of unsterilized purebred pups, dog thieves may sell them to puppy mills as breeders. Some stolen dogs are sold to research labs or for other nefarious purposes such as dog fighting.
How can you best protect your pup from the risk of dog theft?
There are several steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of being a dognapping victim.
Spay/Neuter Your Dog
A dog thief who steals to sell to puppy mill breeders only wants unsterilized dogs for breeding purposes. Most pups are eligible for sterilization at six months.
ID Tags & Microchipping
Does your dog have up-to-date IDs on their collar? If not, that’s an easy fix and will help protect your pup even if they get loose and run panicked down the street during fireworks (yes, that happens!) Make sure the tag has at least one phone number and an address so it’ll be easy to reunite you when a kindly neighbor secures your pooch.
Get your pet microchipped and update your contact information within the microchip database if you move.
Consider a GPS Tracker
You can get dog collars with GPS trackers, so you’ll always know your pup’s whereabouts. Yes, a dog thief will likely take it off, but it could provide a clue to the last whereabouts of the dog.
This one is easy for most pet owners; take lots of pictures of your pup! Take some from different angles, before and after groomings, and with you. That way, you have photo documentation should you need it for proof it’s your dog or if you need to blast social media (and make flyers for telephone poles) of your pup. There’s no national Amber alert for dog thieves (yet), but the more you can spread the word, the better.
Know where your dog is
People report having dogs stolen from their yards. There have been kennel and pet store break-ins around the country. Dog thieves have even broken car windows to steal a dog. So, don’t leave your dog tied up outside of a shop, don’t leave your dog in the car, and don’t leave your dog alone in the yard.
The American Kennel Club recommends leaving your dog home if you’re running errands where you’d have to leave your pup unattended.
Vary your walking routine
As pet owners, we tend to have the same daily routines. We go around at the same time every day and usually take the same walk. It’s not hard for a determined pet thief to learn the routines and wait for an opportunity.
While it’s essential for you and your dogs to get outside for fresh air, you can also entertain and exercise your pup inside with these interactive toys.
Stay aware of your surroundings
Don’t walk with headphones in listening to music, podcasts, or talking on the phone because you’re at a disadvantage should someone surprise you from behind.
Walk with a friend
If possible, walk with a friend or neighbor. Maybe you could even have a group dog walk at times with other people in the area. Besides safety in numbers, it gives the people more variety in conversation (and the dogs more variety in scents.)
Don’t broadcast personal info on social media
Where you live, your schedule, your dog’s details, etc. Keep your private information private.
What to do if your dog is stolen or missing
Once you’ve fought the rising panic when you realize your pup isn’t in any of his favorite hiding places, the first thing to do is let your neighborhood know your dog is missing. Best chance scenario, your pup simply took himself on an exploration.
Grab a few recent photos, and upload them to your neighborhood social media groups on Facebook and Next Door with a post explaining your dog is missing. With any luck, you’ll get near instant response that he’s just visiting a friend next door. Of course, if you know your pup was stolen, then say so in your post.
Next, contact the police and register your dog as a stolen dog rather than a missing dog. Law enforcement may take that more seriously.
Then, you’ll want to alert the database where your dog is registered. That way, you’ll receive a notification if someone tries to re-register your dog.
Alert your area animal shelters, veterinarians, and dog park groups, anywhere you can to let people know about the dognapping.
What to do if you are caught in an active dognapping situation
Do you think you witnessed a dognapping? The first thing to do is record as much information as possible while it’s still fresh. You can talk into your phone, make a written note, or even grab a video if possible. Include physical descriptions as well as actions. That way, you can offer the police and rightful pet parent insight.
Surveillance cameras caught a hoodie-wearing Virginia woman as she picked up “Georgie,” a French Bulldog, off the floor of a hotel lobby and walked off with the dog tucked under her arm. The dog was visiting Ft. Lauderdale with his owners, who put out reports on social media and it wound up on the local news. Fortunately, a viewer spotted the dog with the thief and was able to reunite Georgie with his owners.
If you find a lost dog, here are a few tips you can help the pup to rejoin his family.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with a stolen pet and the accompanying heartbroken family members.