A Veterinarian Answers FAQs on Pet Theft

It’s Pet Theft Awareness Month in February. Although this topic isn’t the happiest we’ve discussed on this blog, it’s certainly an important one. Pet theft is a crime that has been on the rise in recent years. These heartbreaking crimes often leave pet owners devastated and searching for answers. Read on as a local Saint Lucie County, FL veterinarian gives some insight into this.

How Many Pets Are Stolen Each Year?

Something like two million dogs are stolen each year in the U.S. That’s a pretty heartbreaking—and staggering—statistic. Unfortunately, only about one in ten are returned to their humans.

Why Are Pet Thefts Increasing?

Thieves may go after pets for a variety of reasons, including financial gain, revenge, or even using the animal for breeding purposes. Thieves often target purebred dogs or exotic animals, as they can fetch high prices on the black market.

Some pets are taken as bait to train fighting dogs. Others are sold to laboratories. However, the vast majority of pets that are stolen are taken by ‘flippers’ who want to resell them for a profit. Those stolen pets are often sold to unsuspecting buyers online or through underground networks. The thieves prefer this method because they don’t have to put much effort into it.

What Pets Are Stolen The Most?

All pets are at risk in this area. Although certain types of animals are more vulnerable, thieves may find opportunity in any animal.

Purebreds are often at the highest risk. French Bulldogs are popular because they’re not only quite expensive, but small enough to be carried off easily.

The most stolen dog breeds are the Pit Bull, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Labradoodle, Chihuahua, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, French Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Maltese, Pomeranian, and Yorkshire Terrier. Some ‘designer’ dogs, such as Labradoodles and other ‘Doodle’ dogs, are also attractive to shady dealers.

For more information, contact your Saint Lucie County, FL veterinarian.

What To Do If Your Pet Is Stolen

If you have your pet stolen, it can be frightening and traumatic. We hope this never happens to any of you! Unfortunately, it is a very real possibility. However, acting immediately increases your chances of recovering your pet.

If you have any evidence, such as video or a description, you should contact law enforcement as soon as possible.

Next, make a flier with as much information as possible about your pet. Size, Sex, Color and Markings, and breed or breed mixes. Photos are also very important. Choose ones from different angles, if possible. You’ll also want to provide information on when and where your pet was last seen.

We also strongly recommend offering a reward. This is extremely important, as the promise of money can go a long way towards motivating people to return your pet. You can also offer a reward for information, though you’ll of course want to follow the advice of your local police department on that.

Don’t be afraid to tug at people’s heartstrings a bit. People may also be more inclined to return pets that need medical attention. They may also soften if you mention how much they miss and love your pet. If they have a medical issue and/or were rescued, make sure to mention that as well.

Send the flyer everywhere. Post it on your social media pages, find lost/missing pet groups for your city, county, state, and area, and send it to veterinary clinics, shelters, rescues, and dog parks.

If you think you know who stole your pet, contact the police instead of approaching them yourself. This could go wrong in a variety of ways, some of which can be extremely dangerous.

What Is The Best Way To Search For A Stolen Pet?

In addition to making the flyer and contacting authorities, you can search your area. Walk around and call your pet’s name. You never know: they may be close enough to hear you and answer. Or, they could have slipped away. Check empty properties and wooded areas, and ask neighbors to keep an eye out.

You can also check local shelters within an hour’s drive.

If your pet has been microchipped, contact the manufacturer and make sure your information is up to date. They may also offer resources that may help.

You can also monitor local marketplaces, such as those on Facebook and Craigslist. You might also post a classified ad about your missing pet. Thieves sometimes steal pets just to resell them quickly, so an ad could pop up soon. In other cases, they may wait a few weeks until the search has cooled down.

Don’t give up hope! Many pets have been reunited with their owners after years apart.

What Are The Best Ways To Protect My Pet From Thieves?

While unfortunately there is no way to promise that your pet will never be stolen, there are some things you can do to reduce the chances.

Spaying/neutering is first on the list. If this hasn’t been done yet, get it scheduled as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many people steal pets to breed them in puppy mills, often under horrific conditions.

You should also microchip your pet. Microchips have helped reconnect thousands—perhaps millions—of lost or stolen pets with their worried owners, sometimes years after they went missing. Remember to keep your information current in the chip manufacturer’s registry. If your contact information is outdated or missing, that chip will be useless. (Tip: try to check your records using the Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool here.)

ID tags are important as well, and are required by law in many places. These are the best way for someone to contact you if they find your pet. Make sure the chip also includes the term “reward”.

The GPS tags/collars are a newer invention, but they are certainly useful. Although they are easily cut off, they can sometimes provide enough information to provide a solid lead.

Last but not least, keep your pet safe and secure. Most pet thefts occur when the pet is left alone.

Fluffy will be safest indoors: this will protect her from thieves, as well as other hazards, such as cars and weather.

Our canine pals, of course, need to go outside. When you are walking your dog, keep him leashed. Fenced yards are great, but if your place has a low fence that is along a busy sidewalk, it may not offer much protection. Consider adding extra security measures, such as thick, thorny shrubs. A doorbell camera may not stop thieves, but could help identify them. (Note: pet theft is one potential downside of invisible fences: there is no barrier for a thief, who can then quickly remove a pet’s collar.)

Finally, we recommend you just pay attention to what is going on in your neighborhood. For example, if you notice a car slowly driving by as Fido is playing outside, take him inside.

For more detailed steps on how to prevent your pet from getting lost, check out our article on 7 Ways To Keep Your Pet From Getting Lost

Conclusion: The emotional toll of pet theft is immeasurable, as these beloved companions become like family members to their owners. It’s important for pet owners to take precautions such as microchipping their pets and keeping them supervised in public places to prevent falling victim to this heartbreaking crime. Regular preventive care is also crucial to maintaining your pet’s overall well-being. Contact us for comprehensive Vet Preventive Care services to ensure your pet remains healthy and protected.

Need microchipping or spay/neuter surgery? Contact us, your local Saint Lucie County, FL pet hospital, today!

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