Every day, it seems there’s another pet missing – Facebook, news stations and even Instagram are full of “LOST DOG” stories. Sadly, the culprit behind these disappearances is often pet theft. According to adoption website PetFinder, over 2 million pets are stolen every year.
Most incidents of pet theft are random and done by determined thieves, but by taking a few precautions, you can help reduce your pet’s chances of being snatched up.
An unfenced yard makes it easy for a thief to steal a pet, but even if your yard is fenced, some pet thieves won’t be deterred. It’s much easier for a thief to nab an unsupervised, wandering pet than those with their pet parents nearby.
We’re not suggesting you need to keep your pet on house arrest, but avoid leaving them outside when you’re not home. When it’s time for potty breaks or outside time, keep your pet within eyesight. Never allow them to wander unleashed – not only does it put them at risk of theft, they also face the dangers of vehicles and other animals.
We can’t watch our pets 24/7, despite our best efforts. Adding security to your yard can prevent pet theft by deterring would-be dog-nappers. Padlock gates and ensure fences are high enough that your dog can’t be seen from the street. Check for weak spots in and under your fence, that might allow your dog to get out or outsiders to get in. There are many ways to dog-proof a fence, from blocking off diggable spots to adding an extension.
Pet theft is a crime of opportunity – nine times out of ten, if a puppy-napper can’t get easy access to your pet, they’ll give up.
It’s not uncommon for pet parents to tie up their pet outside a coffee shop or leave the dog in the car for a quick errand, but these events leave your pet vulnerable to theft. If you must visit a non-pet-friendly restaurant, ask for seating outside or leave your pet at home with a pet sitter.
Avoid leaving pets in cars at all costs, especially during the summer and winter. If you absolutely must keep your dog in the car, limit trips to under 10 minutes and keep the windows cracked. However, if your dog is a barker, don’t leave him unattended at all – the noise may attract attention from animal advocates, the annoyed, and pet thieves alike.
Microchips are no bigger than a grain of rice, and are inserted painlessly under your pet’s skin. The chip contains a unique identifying number, which – when registered – will display pet parents’ contact information after scanning. Though a dog’s collar can be removed, a microchip is permanent and an undeniable way to prove ownership of your pet. If your pet doesn’t have a microchip, contact your local animal shelter; many have low-cost or free microchipping events.
If you notice anyone unusual or out of place in your neighborhood, be wary. Potential pet thieves often canvas a neighborhood first, sometimes even approaching pet parents on walks with their dogs. Anyone who seems interested in your pet solely for their breed or age should get a red flag.
Any suspicious behaviors, including people looking into yards, or strange cars loitering outside a home, should be reported to the police or neighborhood watch. If you know your neighbors, talk to them about your suspicions too.
While this may seem unrelated to pet theft, animals who are unaltered are more likely to escape in search of a mate, which puts them at risk of being picked up by thieves. When dogs are in heat, they’ll do anything to find a mate – including climbing over or digging under fences.
There are also numerous health benefits to spaying or neutering, but as it applies to pet theft, it’s for your dog’s own good! Contact local animal shelters for information about low-cost or free alteration.
When trying to find your lost or stolen pet, it helps to mention distinctive features he or she might have. Birthmarks, multi-colored eyes, a funny ear – even a distinctive collar or tags. Being able to uniquely identify your pet can provide solid proof that they belong to you and help get them home safely.
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