According to the American Kennel Club, dog thefts increased 27.8 percent between January and May of this year compared to a year ago. The reason for this rise in pet theft appears to be due at least in part to the growing trend of pet flipping, which is the act of stealing cats and dogs — from yards, cars, outside stores, etc. — or obtaining them through other dishonest means not to keep them as pets, but to resell them for profit. We’ve got the information and tips you need to be aware of pet flipping, guard against pet-flipping thieves and con artists and know what to do if your pet is stolen or goes missing.
1. Never leave your pet unattended.
Let’s say you’re walking your dog when you decide to visit a store and do some shopping, but the store doesn’t allow pets inside. You may want to tie your dog up outside for just a few minutes while you run your errand. Yes, tethering your dog by its leash will probably prevent it from running off, but it won’t stop someone who wants to steal your dog. It takes only a couple of seconds for a thief to untie your dog and walk away with it while you’re not there. Don’t take the risk. If a store won’t allow your dog inside, come back another time. Or if you’re planning to go somewhere, call ahead to see if your dog will be welcome. The same goes for leaving your pet unattended in your car (an unsafe move even apart from potential theft), or even on your own property. Pet thieves often steal animals right from their owners’ yards. Don’t assume your pet is safe unless it’s within sight and you can see that it’s safe.
2. Microchip your pet.
Do you need a reason to microchip your pet? We can give you 10 reasons to microchip your pet. But what it comes down to is that a microchip will identify you as your pet’s owner no matter where your pet is or who else may have it in their possession. Identification tags are wonderful if your pet goes missing and is found by someone kind who wants to return the animal to you, its rightful owner, but a pet thief or pet flipper isn’t interested in doing that. They can throw away your pet’s ID tags very easily. A microchip is not so easily discarded, and can reconnect your pet with you no matter who else may have stolen, flipped or bought the animal.
3. Know if your pet is a breed that pet flippers and thieves target frequently.
A smart dognapper knows that not all breeds are alike when it comes to flipping pets. Some breeds are more popular than others, and some are more in-demand on the market and therefore will fetch more money. Someone’s enormous St. Bernard isn’t very likely to be stolen, but Yorkshire Terriers are not only very popular, but also small and light and therefore physically easy to steal. If you own a very popular or expensive breed of dog, be extra vigilant about keeping an eye on it.
4. Keep up-to-date photos of your pet.
Parents are often advised to always keep current photos of their kids on hand not just for the memories, but because if a child goes missing, an accurate photo is an important tool for finding him or her. The same goes for your pet. An adult animal’s appearance may not change as frequently or dramatically as a kid’s, but it does change. A few clear, recent photos of your pets will make your lost posters that much more useful. Taking good-quality photos of animals can be tricky, but read our guide to photographing your pets for tips on how to get some good shots.
5. Plan ahead for a pet theft.
There are some things in life we’d rather not think about, even though planning for them is the responsible move. You may not think your pet will ever be stolen, and chances are good that you’ll be proven right, but generate a to-do list now so that if a theft does happen, you can move through your list step-by-step instead of panicking. List numbers to call and websites to post on to the spread the word as quickly and efficiently as possible. The more you prepare now, the less time you’ll waste when you have to find your pet. A quick reaction is especially important if your pet is stolen and not just escaped or lost.
6. Obtain references for pet sitters and dog walkers.
We don’t want you to become paranoid that everyone who wants to work with you and your pet is a criminal, but pet flippers are con artists, and it is not unheard of for them to pose as professional pet sitters or dog walkers in order to gain access to, steal and sell pets. Any honest person seeking employment taking care of your cat or dog will understand this, and should not hesitate to provide you with contact information from other clients who can attest to their legitimacy. Ask for multiple references, and be thorough about checking up on them.
7. If you are adopting out a pet, don’t get scammed.
Not every pet flipper is a thief who will snatch a dog directly from someone’s car or backyard. If you are selling or adopting out a pet through Craigslist or similar means, a flipper may try to adopt the animal only to turn around and sell it to the highest bidder. It’s on you to be diligent and check out the person or persons to whom you hand over the pet. Ask for references and information about the person’s experience with pets. Be careful, but pet flippers have been known to con people out of pets using fake sob stories to make themselves sympathetic. You may want to ask for an adoption fee to weed out pet flippers who are trying to make money off your pet, not spend money on it.
8. Contact the police, animal control and nearby animal shelters if your pet goes missing.
If your dog goes missing for any reason, call every animal shelter in your area and local animal control to file a lost pet report. If you suspect your pet is stolen and not just lost, it is especially important to call the police to report the theft. Those are your first calls. You also may want to consider calling local pet stores, groomers and other pet-related organizations and businesses. They will likely be sympathetic and willing to help, but they probably don’t share information and you will need to do the work to spread the word. Act fast. The more people who know about your stolen pet, and the faster they know about it, the harder it will be for the thief to flip and sell the animal.
9. Monitor Craigslist if your pet goes missing.
The Internet will be your most powerful tool you have if your pet is ever lost or stolen. Firstly, you can use websites and social media like Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter to spread information about your pet. Every person who knows about it increases the chances of recovery. But in the case of pet flippers, you can use those same websites to monitor activity that may help you track down the person who has your pet. Monitor Craigslist, social media, message boards and other forums for activity in your area. You may find your own pet listed for sale. Ask your family and friends to do the same. If they see a suspicious ad, they’ll be able to tip you off.
Next: 10 Dog Park Safety Tips!
10. Adopt from reputable shelters and breeders.
Just as those searching for homes in which to place pets should be wary of potential scams, so should those looking to adopt pets. If you are adopting animals from sites like Craigslist, be aware of pet flipping and try to separate the legit from the shady. Even if you are the most responsible person in the world and will give a new pet a perfect home, the person who sold you said pet might have stolen it from some other family. Adopting from a reputable shelter is almost always a better option. Avoid even the remote possibility of supporting pet flippers.
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