Dognapped! Frightening Facts of Pet Theft

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Dognapped! Frightening Facts of Pet Theft

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AFEW SECONDS WAS ALL IT TOOK FOR CHIHUAHUA PUP LUPÉ TO SLIP OUT THE DOOR AND INTO THE hands of an opportunistic thief. She was at work in Vancouver with owner Emily Olmstead when the door was accidentally left ajar. Despite Emily's swift action to find her, Lupé's whereabouts are still a mystery.

"I miss her more than anything in this world and I don't think I could ever have a dog again," says a distraught Olmstead, who spent the end of last summer scouring the city streets and putting up posters during her heartbreaking search.

While Lupé was snatched in broad daylight, Husky Keymo was taken from his yard in Jacksonville, Florida, in the dead of night. Just after midnight in February, his owner Ella Jones returned to her home and let Keymo off the leash in the front yard. In the time it took her to get ready for bed, Keymo was gone. She noticed food on the sidewalk and believes he was lured away. In the days following his disappearance, she talked to neighbours, handed out posters to everyone she met, drove around nearby streets, and contacted local radio and TV stations. She also posted his profile on the Petfinder.com website and put up a reward for the much-missed puppy.

"A co-worker gave him to me from her litter and the first time I saw him, I loved him," says Jones, her voice shaking with emotion. "He was a companion, he was like my child and I just want him back home."

Emily and Ella, like a growing number of owners, have become victims of criminals who see companion animals as a quick and easy way to make a buck. There are no reliable figures for the number of dogs stolen in North America each year, as the police often don't distinguish between property theft and pet theft. However, the non-profit organization Last Chance for Animals based in Los Angeles estimates that two million pets are stolen every year, and PetLynx, a companion animal registry, estimates that one million animals go missing in Canada each year.

When Dorothy Pizzuti of Atlanta, Georgia, started the pet locator website Dogdetective.com in 1999 it was a site dedicated to lost and found dogs. Today it also features a dedicated section for stolen dogs.

"We've had a lot of reports from people about their dogs being stolen, so that's why I added that option about two years ago," Pizzuti say. "We average 250,000 visitors every month with 1,500 new members joining each month. About 10 percent of dogs reported as lost are reported stolen. It happens more than I thought it did."

With pedigree dogs costing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, it's no surprise that some dogs are stolen and sold on the cheap. Why go to a reputable dog breeder when you can get what you want at half the price? Some steal dogs to use as dog-fight prey, a few may end up in puppy mills for breeding, and others are taken for ransom. Earlier this year, a family from Glendale in Colorado paid $1,500 dollars to get back their Yorkshire Terrier after he was stolen from their car. But there are other reasons for stealing a dog, according to former CBS journalist Linda Fields who runs Findfido.com from her home in northern Pennsylvania.

"There are people who actually go around and look for dogs to steal and they are doing it for a number of reasons," says Fields. "One could be that they intend to resell the dogs to laboratories or secondary sources, which is totally illegal but it happens. There are also scammers out there that people need to be aware of. People will call up and say wire me this money and I will send you your dog back when in fact they have no intention of doing that or they may not even have your dog."

Rumours of "bunchers" stealing family dogs for sale to laboratories have been circulating for years and Last Chance for Animals provided concrete evidence of the practice when it launched an undercover investigation of the dog dealer, C. C Baird of Arkansas. Last summer, Baird, who had previously been fined for animal cruelty violations in 1997, pleaded guilty to a string of violations under the US Animal Welfare Act. His wife, Patsy, also entered a guilty plea and a number of associates suspected of stealing dogs are also under investigation. A documentary on the case called Dealing Dogs was shown on HBO in February.

While some police forces will be happy to file a report, it won't be priority number one down at the local station house. The best chance you have of recovering your four- legged friend is to become your own private detective, says Pizzuti.

"Immediately go to shelters and put up posters in your area," she urges. "Start off with a 3-mile radius. If, after three days, you don't have your dog back, go to a 10-mile radius. Wait five, ten days and if you don't have your dog back, go to a 50-mile radius. Just keep going out. Go up to a 100- mile radius because we've had dogs 100 miles from home in three days. Some people will give up after a couple of weeks but we've had people who have found their dogs a year later. So don't give up."

Real animal lovers can play their part by refusing to buy cut-price dogs without the right paperwork or adequate background checks.

"There is obviously a market out there and the problem is that people buy stolen dogs," says Olmstead. "I feel that if you can't afford to buy a dog, you should not buy a stolen dog. People need to be made aware of what goes on." ■

Yolanda Brooks is a freelance writer who recently relocated from London, England, to North Vancouver, BC, Canada. Hailing from the land of Crufts, she thought she lived among the world's biggest dog lovers but she now realizes that North Americans really are world leaders when it comes to canine worship.

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Mon, 11/26/2012 - 23:25
In my town of Plaquemine, Louisiana people have been coming from the bad neighborhoods, and stealing good people's dogs out of their fenced in yard, in broad daylight while the owners are at work. The reason they have been doing this is more horrible than anything I have heard. They take someone's beloved family pert, to use them as a "bait dog" for their pit bulls in dog fights. I am beyond sick by this. The police seem to be unaware that dog fighting is even going on. I feel like they just don't care enough to do something about it!
Mon, 01/07/2013 - 10:25
My son"s bullDog was stolen march 9th 2013. posted over a thousand fliers.a few calls wrong dog. i can't believe how many dogs are taken in lakeland' fl. i know all the horror stories,it frightens me to sickness.he is only 8 months old, but very big. a lady said she saw him chained to a no parking sign and some one pulled up and put him in the car but she can't remember the location. how can we get this out there in this huge county. i called our local news paper,WASTE OF TIME.HOW DO YOU GET THIS ALL OVER THE INTERNET? ANY HELP WOULD BE APPRECIATED .
Tue, 03/19/2013 - 07:47
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Sun, 04/21/2013 - 15:54
I am glad this is getting out more, because it is hard for many to believe. I had two family pit bull's indoor dogs that was out for only 15-20 minutes 3 years ago in my yard approximately 10:20 a.m. September 2010. They were indoor dogs, and I was outside with them. We had an unfamiliar truck that had stopped out in front of my home located where the occupants of the vehicle could see me and my dogs in my backyard through my chain linked fence. It seemed odd to me and I had my baby inside with my front door unlocked being that I live in a quiet neighborhood and me being outside that seemed ok, until this vehicle came by. So, I went to my front door to lock it, that is when I had more issues when these people came into my yard and made me feel threatened. The purpose that the man that got out claimed to be in my neighborhood was they were soliciting, wanting to sell me meat. No matter how many times I had said no thanks, don't eat it having health problems etc. they were not leaving which really put me at an unease. I did not believe them and felt they were looking to rob someone. I thought it was odd that my dogs were not at my fence behind me, no barking nothing with this strange man there. When they finally decided to leave my yard I went around to my backyard to see where my dogs were, I couldn't find them. What I did see was a white suv Tahoe leaving from behind my home. It was so quite that if I did not see it, I would not have known. They made off with one of my dogs (my 6 year old spayed female)and the other one was left foaming at the mouth for some strange reason and lethargic. There was 2 unfamiliar vehicles involved at least 3 people in my neighborhood at the same time just so happens, 1 was keeping me distracted in my front yard "to sell meat", as the other was working from behind my home on a dead private dirt road drive. Only one way in and out, and where the "meat guy" had me and where they were parked they could see what was coming and going from the road behind me. Neighbors were not home, this vehicle was never seen there before, and they do not know of anyone with a white suv. Both vehicles leave out together. I have had ridiculous phone calls that are suspicious, I have done a police report and had it put on crime stoppers, high dollar rewards had been offered, we have talked with many people in town about these illegal trespassing solicitors and the law has not enforced the law on stopping anything, I have had a gas station look into camera's because someone would purposely remove my expensive dog signs yet leave up many old political and yard sale signs and only target my dog signs. When my dog went missing 3 years ago, a lot had happened, but others in the area took notice and I took notice to others missing dogs. Many of the dogs were Labs, many pit bulls, German shepherds, husky's, great Pyrenees, boxers, rottweilers. Dogs within short time frames had vanished. I was not the only person who had suspicions of these meat trucks and had encountered the same man and truck that I had described that had issues with them. I had visited meat businesses coming from 2 hours away, and of course they are not going to claim anything. What I did find out though is many people going to our homes and scouting out who is home and what you have that they may want to take have been going to many areas illegally, and many of them have criminal history. The state would not do anything because they pay a fee to them, but the counties most anyways could enforce their end and help keep our community safer. Authorities believe that this is due to dog fighting rings, yet they want to play stupid and say they don't know anything at the same time, they say no one is reporting anything. Which is really odd, because I have come into contact with many people on the streets throughout the area looking for my dog and people around talk of dog fighting and I have been told by many they have family who is involved with this "activity". A few years before I had this situation happen to me, it was going on according to others and there was talk of so many missing dogs and speculation of dog theft for research laboratories. 3 years has passed and there seems to be a number of the same types of dogs going missing again. And to make this even more of a problem for me and my family is just recently I am having the meat trucks back in my neighborhood illegally parking out in front of my home and not coming in my yard but making their presence known and the law is trying to avoid dealing with the situation. I am still trying to let people know to hopefully help others, and still trying to get authorities to do more than what has been done about this issue. It shouldn't matter if it was one person or 50, wrong is wrong. There is no telling how many people had been turned away from filing police reports, I was turned away when I first called, then it took a sgt. who had a similar situation happen to his family almost a year before me to listen and do a report. I have talked to many who do not feel that the law cares about our family pets, the criminals get the pass, and many people do not even get to file a report according to people I have come in contact with in the community. Just like how my situation has been handled, no one wants to anger anyone who is a criminal to come after their family, and no one wants to anger the law enforcement, so people will give up and this will continue to happen. When looked into our local police departments on dog theft reports after talking to people who said they had filed one, they did not even have a section in order for this specific theft. Point was, maybe if everyone filed and they were actually being put in an appropriate order then people in our community or law enforcement could clearly see there is a problem of many dogs missing/stolen and the breeds. I had been told over 2 years ago that the Sheriffs office Public Information Officer would put something into the paper to make the community aware of dog theft because like myself I never knew anything of it until it had happened to me. Well, he must had not found the time, yet there had been other things in the paper like a purse that wasn't stolen "attempted" and the witnesses couldn't even give accurate information or details on the truck or the man involved. I had given very detailed information on my situation and made flyer's, look a like truck where they may want to investigate and look into questioning some people etc. Nothing, going into a year later, a detective was making out that my dog was not stolen but like she ran off, and he did not even know after all of the time that had passed that there was another vehicle involved, he also put the problem back off on me stating that I needed to put up a 4 ft. fence up to my front yard with large no trespassing signs to keep these illegal solicitors out of my yard. This is even though, I have a fence around the majority of my home, and a no soliciting sign on my front door, beware of dog signs were on my fence (may had gotten these rejects attention), live in a subdivision, and again they were ILLEGALLY SOLICITING. These people have not stopped from entering peoples property according to others whether it was 8p.m. or later, nor has it kept them from trespassing even when large signs had been posted. I just want people to know what can happen to them, the unthinkable that many has no idea about.
Mon, 10/28/2013 - 22:55

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