Dognapping Is On the Rise—These 7 Tips Can Keep Your Dog Safe

By: Howard HardeeUpdated:

leashed French Bulldog in park with woman
iStock.com/SerhiiBobyk

Dognapping Is On the Rise—These 7 Tips Can Keep Your Dog Safe

Have you heard about an increase in stolen dogs in your community? You’re not alone. Dognapping (aka the dog version of kidnapping) is on the rise across the U.S., with dog thefts up 30% since 2021, according to the American Kennel Club. While high-profile cases like the theft of Lady Gaga’s French Bulldogs have made headlines, everyday people are the most common targets.

If you’re a dog parent, this is one seriously scary trend—but there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself and your pup.

1 Never leave your dog tied up outside a restaurant, coffee shop or other business.

woman sitting at cafe with dog
iStock.com/hxyume
Sometimes, dognapping is a crime of opportunity. “There are many cases where somebody isn’t even thinking about stealing a dog—but if the dog is left alone for a few minutes, there are some people who will take anything they can sell,” says Kathleen Summers, the director of outreach and research for the Stop Puppy Mills campaign at the Humane Society of the United States, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

2 Get your dog microchipped.

small white dog being scanned for a microchip
iStock.com/dardespot
Though a microchip cannot guide you or law enforcement to your dog’s location, it can tell a veterinarian how to contact you. That’s why it’s critical to make sure that the contact information connected to your dog’s microchip—such as phone number and address—is current, so authorities know who to call if your dog turns up at a shelter or veterinary clinic.

3 Consider a GPS collar.

dog wearing a GPS collar
iStock.com/Eudyptula
Yes, dog collars can easily be removed—but dog thieves often forget to take them off immediately after running away with a stolen dog. “So, a GPS collar can often give you an idea of where the dog thief was headed before it’s taken off,” Summers says.

4 Spay or neuter your pet.

portrait of a golden pomeranian
iStock.com/Christopher Ames
Some dog thieves are motivated by the potential of selling your dog to a breeder—and breeders only want dogs who can, well, breed. That makes pups who are spayed or neutered less valuable to potential dognappers.

5 Make sure your yard is secure.

small dog sitting in front of a fence
iStock.com/Attila Fodemesi
If you have a backyard where your dog spends time, you should already have a fence that prevents them from getting out. But does your fence prevent thieves from getting in? Higher fences that outsiders can’t see through (as opposed to chain-link fencing or lower barriers that are easier to hop over) make it more difficult for a would-be dog thief to walk into your yard—and away with your dog.

6 Install security cameras and signs.

Image
If possible, install video-recording devices outside your home that could help identify a dog thief. It’s also a good idea to install signs warning that the property is monitored by security cameras. Dognappers may avoid family homes with security due to the higher risk of getting caught.

7 Keep good photos of your dog.

Image
iStock.com/43035245
We know your camera roll is full of Insta-ready pics of your pup—but make sure you have a collection of non-blurry photos that show any distinctive markings, too. In the event of a pet theft, you’ll want as many clear photos of them as possible to help in the recovery. Get picture-taking pointers from Chewy’s experts here.

Is My Dog at Risk of Kidnapping?

Many dognappers intend to sell the dogs they steal, says Summers. For that reason, certain risk factors might make a dog more attractive to thieves:

  • Size: Smaller dogs are often targeted because they’re easier to pick up and run away with than a larger dog who might be more difficult to control.
  • Age: Puppies and younger dogs are considered more valuable to thieves because they are typically easier to sell for profit.
  • Breed: Purebred dogs are often targeted for their potentially high resale price.
  • Reproductive ability: Would-be dog thieves may intend to sell a dog to a breeder, so dogs who are intact are more at risk than those who’ve been spayed or neutered.

These factors have made certain dog breeds especially prone to theft. “French Bulldogs seem to be very popular with dog thieves because they're super-expensive dogs,” Summers says. “We’re also seeing a lot of Yorkshire Terriers being stolen, along with other breeds that are small and easy to conceal,” such as Boston Terriers, Pomeranians and Chihuahuas.

Animals with distinct colors and markings may also be more attractive to dognappers, Summers says—but those markings also make stolen pets more identifiable during recovery.

My Dog Has Been Stolen. What Do I Do?

In the worst-case scenario where your dog has been taken, here’s what to do:

  • File a police report: Do this immediately. Include as many details as possible, such as your dog’s last known whereabouts and distinct physical features (like an off-color nail or a chipped tooth) that will help law enforcement identify and return your dog. Emphasize that your dog is not just missing—they have been stolen. (Some police departments may allocate different resources for dog theft than they would for a lost dog.) In a ransom situation, share any messages from the thief with the police.
  • Spread the word: Post flyers in your neighborhood and share details of the dognapping on relevant social media channels. Many neighborhoods have Facebook pages devoted to lost and stolen dogs, for example. Call local animal shelters and rescues and provide them a description and photos of your dog. Enlist family members to spread the word, too.
  • Offer a reward: Promising a cash reward for the safe return of your dog is perhaps the best way to attract media attention to your case, Summers says. You can advertise the reward on the flyers you’re posting around your neighborhood, share it with local shelters and rescues, and even call local TV stations and other media outlets with your story. The further the word spreads, the more people will potentially recognize your stolen pet and the more pressure the dog thief will feel.
  • Check classifieds: Look in newspapers, on Craigslist and social media listings to see whether somebody has posted your dog for sale.
If your dog is stolen, the situation is serious but not hopeless, Summers says. There are many accounts of dogs being recovered following a dognapping—but the experience, both for the pet and the parent, can be traumatic. Use our tips to keep your dog safe—and remember that pet safety doesn’t end there. From car rides to nighttime walks, there are so many ways to make sure your pup is by your side for many years to come.

Share:

Published:

By: Howard HardeeUpdated:

BeSmart