Pet Theft Awareness: Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe
By Lynn Stacy-Smith
Last summer I made a new friend for a horrible reason: six very young puppies were stolen from the whelping pen of a hobby breeder and I was one of many people helping these strangers share information via social media to help locate them. Located in the country, they had felt safe putting the momma and whelping pen in their climate controlled barn, not knowing that someone would find out they were there and steal them to try to resell them.
A Facebook post advertising the stolen puppies for sale helped the police and breeder start to track down their location. Four of the stolen puppies were located in a box in a dumpster after someone gave a tip that they were there. Of those four, only one was alive; the others had died alone and terrified, away from their mother or their breeder, in a dirty and disgusting dumpster. The other two were found running along a beach in Chicago and were picked up by a good Samaritan and returned safely to their breeder. I was lucky enough to meet two of the surviving puppies and their breeder a few weeks after the incident, and felt incredibly lucky to get puppy kisses from these survivors of such a horrific act.
February 14 was Pet Theft Awareness Day, a day originally created in 1988 to increase awareness of pet owners to the crime of pet theft. Here are seven things you can do as a pet owner to help prevent your dog from being stolen or lost.
1. Do not let your pet roam freely: I often think about growing up in an extremely rural area where our dog was allowed to go outside without us and without a fence. Right after that thought I get goosebumps imagining doing that today. That was another time and another place. Yes, we talk about surviving the 70s as human kids with our lack of booster seats, bicycle helmets and seat belts, but things are different and we know better now. Just like you would not transport your toddler without a car seat in 2017, do not let your dog roam freely without a fence. Period. I don’t care if you own 1,000 acres, put up a fence to protect your dog.
2. Always go outside with your dog: One of our teenagers asked me a few years ago, “So, the dogs are not puppies any more, when are they going to be allowed in the yard on their own?” My response, “Um, NEVER!” A fence allows your dog to run and frolic and select a place to eliminate waste without a leash. It is not the dog equivalent of plopping your child in front of the TV so you can get stuff done. I will freely admit that when I first moved to our home I did let the dogs outside on their own without a human. One day as I pulled into the driveway after work, all three dogs ran to greet me, right out of the gate that one of the kids had left open while playing with friends. Another day our escape artist Dutch opened the gate on his own and took off down the street before I realized he was gone.
My parents’ late Beau and my former foster dog Destiny could both jump a regular fence from a standing position. Between dogs going over fences, digging under them, opening up gates on their own, kids or meter readers accidentally leaving gates open, and the risk of pet theft, there are simply too many risks of losing your dog or having them stolen, not to mention things that they can get into when left to their own decision-making. It’s not hard to go outside with them each and every time, I’ve been doing it for six years. In fact, you can stay warm with my winter gear suggestions from last week if you live in cold climates.
3. Do not leave your dog in the car alone: Unless you are only going to places where you can take your dog, skip the car ride and leave them at home. For one thing, in most parts of the country it is simply too hot to leave them in the car for at least six months out of the year if not longer, but it is also extremely easy to break into your car and take your dog. Several years ago there was a tragic story in a nearby suburb in which a man stopped at a business for a quick errand and left his elderly dog in his van. The van was stolen with the dog inside and the dog was never recovered. I love having my dogs with me every moment I can, too, but I would rather them be safe and sound at home.
4. Do not tie your dog out…anywhere: Last week we addressed the problem of chained dogs, but not in terms of your dog getting lost or stolen. I also do not recommend tying your dog anywhere, even to run into a store for a moment or two. If you are with your dog and your dog cannot go into a business, neither should you. It is far too easy to untie the leash or unclip their collar. There are some locking leashes on the market, but collars can be cut or slipped over a dog’s head if someone is really motivated to steal your dog.
5. Utilize cameras and home security systems: There are now many products on the market to help secure your home through alarms and cameras, most of which have apps to send alerts to your phone. Some even allow you to listen to sounds in your yard and speak to people who come to your door even if you are thousands of miles away.
6. Research potential pet sitters & groomers: Hire reputable pet sitters and groomers that you know already, are suggested by trusted friends or other dog professionals, or through pet sitting or grooming companies with reliable reputations.
7. Microchip your dog: Microchips are a permanent way of identifying your dog, but they do rely on someone scanning them with a microchip scanner. It is also essential to keep your chip information current if you move or change your phone number. Microchips won’t help in some instances of pet theft when the thieves have no intention of providing veterinary care, but they make it possible that if someone takes your dog to the vet or if your dog escapes or runs away from the thieves.
The bottom line: any time your dog is out of your home, keep them on-leash and in your sight. It may seem dramatic to give such strong warnings, but the fact is that dogs are stolen on a regular basis, and this is not a fate you want for your best friend.