Hold on tight to your precious pooches. Dog theft is up, says the American Kennel Club (AKC).
The organization's national database shows at least a 32 percent jump in thefts this year. The Chicago Sun Times writes that the numbers come from media reports of stolen dogs and customers who phone AKC's Companion Animal Recovery service.
So far, 224 pets have been reported stolen in 2011, compared to the 150 stolen during the same period of seven months in 2010. Newsmax.com points out this is a major increase from the 162 thefts reported in total during 2009.
AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson told the Chicago Sun Times, "Some are taken out of homes, some are taken out of cars, some are taken out of pet stores." Peterson added, "I've even seen some taken out of a child's arms on a park bench."
The motivation for this rise in dog thefts most likely boils down to a financial one. AKC suggests the thief might try to sell a dog, give the pet as a gift, or even hold the animal for ransom.
So how exactly can you keep your dog safe from thieves? The group recommends micro-chipping your pup, putting the animal on a tight leash and keeping him in your sight at all times, especially when running errands. Also, beware of inquisitive strangers asking you how much you paid for the dog.
For those who've lost a pet, websites such as Fido Finder may help.
While some pets get stolen, many others are left homeless. Four million cats and dogs are put down in U.S. shelters each year, equivalent to almost one animal every eight seconds, says the Humane Society.