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American Kennel Club Cautions Owners as Pet Thefts Continue to Rise; State Lawmakers Consider Making 'Dog-Napping' a Serious Crime

(Tuesday, December 22, 2009)

– AKC Appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America Highlights Prevalence of Trend and Reminds Owners to Keep Pets Safe –

The American Kennel Club® continues to remind pet owners to heed warnings about an alarming rise in "dog–nappings." State houses across America have taken notice and are proposing laws to toughen penalties for those who steal pets.

Since last year, when AKC® first noted concerns about the prevalence of pet theft, more dogs are disappearing. Through November 30, 2009, the AKC has tracked more than 115 missing pets via incidents reported by news media and customer reports. In 2008, the AKC tracked a total of 71 thefts.

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which tracks stolen property nationwide, currently lists 200 stolen dogs, according to Steve Fischer, FBI Spokesperson. According to Fischer, "Dogs listed in our database must have permanent owner–applied serial numbers, such as those from embedded microchips. Unfortunately not all dogs have permanent ID, so we know this is only a fraction of the number of missing dogs."

"Each week I am reading about reports of pet theft from all around the country," said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "Some owners, desperate to find their beloved pets have contacted us, wanting to know what they can do to help get their ‘family’ members back. It’s not just about the financial value of the dog for any of these people. It’s an emotional attachment that can’t be replaced by getting another dog."

Julie Austin of Idaho told Local News 8 that she was shocked when her 11–week–old puppy was stolen right out of the arms of her 5–year–old daughter while she was sitting in a public park. The Austins filed a stolen pet report with the local police. Fortunately, after they alerted the media and the police received a tip about their pet’s whereabouts their puppy was recovered living at someone else’s home. The alleged thief was recently charged with a misdemeanor possession of stolen property.

As a majority of owners view their dogs as valued family members, the value of pets in people’s lives are being recognized by legislators across America. Recently in New York, following the disappearance of a Siberian Husky in his Brooklyn district, New York Assemblyman Joseph Lentol vowed to introduce dog–napping legislation which would make the theft of a companion animal a felony offense with up to four years in jail depending on the circumstances.

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in Texas which would have made it a state felony to steal a pet, including the family dog, with a possible two years in prison if convicted. California and Delaware have tried to regulate roadside pet sales as a way to combat the trafficking of stolen pets to unsuspecting consumers.

Regardless of the reason thieves are taking pets, whether to sell to unsuspecting local buyers or over the Internet or keeping them for personal use, these criminals need to know that pet owners are becoming more proactive by keeping pets close to them and also microchipping their pets ahead of time so that when these dogs turn up at shelters or veterinarian offices they can be scanned to find their rightful owners.

In response to this continuing trend, AKC offers the following advice to prevent your "best friend" from being the target of a crime. See more about pet theft on the Good Morning America Web site.

PREVENTION
In the Neighborhood

  • Don’t let your dog off–leash – Keeping your dog close to you reduces the likelihood it will wander off and catch the attention of thieves.
  • Don’t leave your dog unattended in your yard – Dogs left outdoors for long periods of time are targets, especially if your fenced–in yard is visible from the street.
  • Be Cautious with information – If strangers approach you to admire your dog during walks, don’t answer questions about how much the dog cost or give details about where you live.

On the Road

  • Never leave your dog in an unattended car, even if it’s locked Besides the obvious health risks this poses to the dog, it’s also an invitation for thieves, even if you are gone for only a moment. Leaving expensive items in the car such as a GPS unit or laptop will only encourage break–ins and possibly allow the dog to escape, even if the thieves don’t decide to steal it too.
  • Don’t tie your dog outside a store – This popular practice among city–dwelling dog owners can be a recipe for disaster. If you need to go shopping, patronize only dog–friendly retailers or leave the dog at home.

RECOVERY

  • Protect your dog with microchip identification – Collars and tags can be removed so make sure you have permanent ID with a microchip. Thieves will not know the dog has a microchip until a veterinarian or shelter worker scans it so keep contact information current with your microchip recovery service provider. For more information, enroll your pet in a 24-hour recovery service and sign-up at www.akccar.org.
  • If you suspect your dog has been stolen – Immediately call the police / animal controlofficer in the area your pet was last seen and file a police report. If your dog has a microchip, ask to have that unique serial number, along with the dog’s description, posted in the "stolen article" category on the National Crime Information Center.
  • Canvass the neighborhood – Talk to people in the immediate vicinity where your pet went missing for possible sightings of the actual theft.
  • Have fliers with a recent photo ready to go if your dog goes missing – Keep several current photos (profile and headshot) of your dog in your wallet or on an easily accessible web account so that you can distribute immediately if your pet goes missing.
  • Contact the media – Call the local TV station, radio station and newspaper and ask to have a web post put out about your missing pet.

DON’T BUY STOLEN PETS

  • Don’t buy dogs from the internet, flea markets, or roadside vans –There is simply no way to verify where an animal purchased from any of these outlets came from. Web sites and online classifieds are easily falsified, and with roadside or flea market purchases not only do you not know the pet’s origins but you will never be able to find or identify the seller in case of a problem.
  • Even newspaper ads may be suspect – Adult dogs offered for sale at reduced prices, for a "relocation" fee, or accompanied by requests for last minute shipping fees are red flags. Dog owners who truly love their animals and are unable to keep them will opt to find a loving home without compensation for re–homing the animal.
  • Seek out reputable breeders or rescue groups – Visit the home of the breeder, meet the puppy’s mother, and see the litter of puppies. Developing a good relationship with the breeder will bring you peace of mind when purchasing. Contacting breed rescue groups can also be a safe alternative if you are looking for an adult dog.
  • Demand proper papers on your purebred puppy – Ask for the AKC Litter Registration Number and contact AKC customer service at 919–233–9767 to verify registration authenticity of your purebred puppy.