"I was only in the store for a second."
"My back yard is fenced in!"
"The car doors were locked."
Unfortunately, these phrases are becoming more and more familiar to pet parents, as reports of dog theft rose yet again in 2013. It only takes a few seconds for a would-be thief to nab your Lab -- which is why knowing which dog breeds are most susceptible, and how to take proper security measures, is essential to keeping your four-legged love safe.
As with any kind of theft, the number one motive behind dog-napping is money; just last month, an arrest was made in a case of a stolen prize-winning French bulldog and 15 French Bulldog puppies valued at $80,000! Pure breed and designer dogs are prime targets -- especially smaller breeds like Pomeranians, Yorkies and Boston Terriers -- but even larger and mixed-breed dogs can be vulnerable.
Whether a furry friend costs $1 or $1,000, our pets are always priceless to us. To keep your dog's paws where they belong (with you!), here are some tips for thwarting thieves:
Keep pets behind closed doors. While doggie doors offer us a lot in the way of convenience, they can put our precious pups at risk. With unlimited access to the back yard, it's likely your dog will slip in and out without you noticing -- which could spell trouble if someone is looking to steal neighborhood pets. Ditch the doggie door and always supervise your dog outdoors, especially if your yard is visible from the street. Consider installing gravity or spring latches on back yard gates to ensure your dog can't get loose if the gardener accidentally forgets to close the gate, and if you don't need frequent access to the yard, padlock the entrance for extra security.
Treat your dog like you would your child. You probably already do this in a number of ways (I know I've thrown birthday parties for Wellington that have rivaled celebrations for my son), but in this case I mean never -- NEVER! -- leave your dog unattended in a public space. Just as you wouldn't dream of leaving your child locked in the car while you shop or tied to a pole while you stop to get coffee, it's never safe to do these things to your dog, either.
Always check references. If you are considering hiring a pet sitter, dog walker, groomer or even a trainer, do your due diligence first. Ask for references and call them. Read online reviews. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a professional he or she knows and trusts. These days, it is easy for criminals to pose as professionals, so make sure you are thorough in checking a prospective hire out before trusting them with your best friend.
Maintain a paper trail. Get your dog some form of permanent identification, like a microchip, and make sure you have all of the documents necessary to prove ownership of your dog in case he or she ever does go missing and is recovered. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for dogs to be stolen by a former romantic partner or roommate. Keep adoption papers or records of sale in a safe place, along with things like vet bills, receipts from the groomer or anything that helps demonstrate that you are the dog's owner and primary caregiver. Unfortunately, the police often will not get involved if they think that there is a pet custody dispute, not actual pet theft, so it can be hard to get help if the actual ownership of your pet is at all murky. If you can't prove pet theft to get the police involved, you may want to contact a lawyer.
Spay or neuter your dog. While your veterinarian will probably recommend that you do this anyway to reap the health benefits, spaying or neutering your dog (especially if he or she is a pure breed), will help make your best friend less desirable of a target to thieves, since they won't be able to produce -- and profit from -- offspring.
While you can never totally protect your dog from the dangers of the world, many pet thefts occur because of simple mistakes pet parents make. I hope these tips serve as a helpful reminder to always keep your four-legged loves within sight -- stay vigilant about security to avoid becoming a statistic!