February 14 is National Pet Theft Awareness Day

KittiesPet theft is a very real threat that can affect any pet owner who does not take precautions to protect their pets.

Years ago, when my husband was a kid, his family purchased a new puppy. They happily brought him home and got him settled in his new environment. They lived in a rural area, far away from main roads, other neighborhoods, or even a large town.

They had an enclosure for the puppy to play in when it was outside. After just a few days, the puppy went missing. Initially, they thought a predator had gotten to it, since they lived on the edge of a very wooded area. But soon they found out that the seller of the puppies was running a scam in which they sold a puppy, obtained the buyer’s information and address, and then stole the puppy back so they could sell again, turning a profit off of multiple sales of the same dog.

Whether you live in an urban area or in a rural setting, whether you just bought a pet or have had your family pet for years, you could fall victim to pet theft.

What can you do to protect your pets?

Awareness is the first step. Knowing that the threat of pet theft is out there will make you aware of suspicious persons and situations.
Report people who seem to be loitering around your house or a neighbor’s house.
If you are buying a pet, do so from a reputable source. Where possible, work through references (do you or do your friends know the seller?).
Protect your pet by keeping it supervised when you can be there and secure when you are not able to watch it in person.
Put you pet’s outdoor enclosure in a spot that is not easily visible or accessible from the road.
Don’t leave pets unaccompanied in public places (in parked cars, tied up on the sidewalk).
Spay or neuter your pet. This helps to prevent them from wandering and becoming targets.
Invest in a good fence for your yard.
Get identification cards and microchips for your pets. There are also pet tattoo services available in some areas. The tattoos are registered and serve as permanent identification.

Why pet theft?

There are several motivations for people to steal pets. In the example above, some pets may be sold and then stolen back for profit. In other cases, thieves take pets and then sell them to other parties. This type of crime is motivated by a demand for animals to use in research and testing. Many organizations turn to dealers with “class A” licenses. This typically means that they maintain their own animal breeding facilities and are regulated by government restrictions. However, for a relatively small amount of money, a person can obtain a “class B” dealer’s license, which allows them to sell animals from “unspecified sources.” Their dealings are less regulated. A stolen pet could easily be sold to a class B dealer who could, in turn, sell them to a pet store or a research group. Finally, some pet theft is just a senseless act of violence against owners and pets alike, with the intent to do harm and abuse.

What are the methods for pet theft?

The methods of pet theft are varied. It could be as simple as snatching a dog or cat that is roaming its own yard or waiting tied up in front of a shop while its owner is inside. Similarly, pets left unattended in cars can also be easy targets. Other cases of pet theft might be more intricate. As with the case above, stealing back a pet that has been sold requires the thief to target the specific home and then wait for the right opportunity to take the pet. In other situations, a thief may pretend to want to buy a pet. This could happen if you are selling a litter of puppies or kittens and invite potential owners to come to your home. Once the thief knows where you live and where you keep the litter, they might be able to come back later and steal them. Another common way of acquiring animals is by placing “good home” ads online or in the paper. If an owner is no longer able to care for their pet, or if they have a litter that they’re trying to find homes for, owners may respond to these ads. The adopter may turn out to be a class B dealer or someone who wants to sell to a class B dealer. In any case, the pet does not end up in a good home.

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