Dognapping: Keep Your Pup Safe
Earlier this year, the canine-loving world was shocked by the news that pop star Lady Gaga’s dog walker had been shot in Los Angeles, and that Koji and Gustav, two of her beloved French Bulldogs, had been stolen. A third Frenchie, Asia, managed to escape and the dog walker, Ryan Fischer, recovered from serious wounds in the weeks following the incident. The A Star Is Born actor was in Rome when the crime occurred and offered a $500,000 reward for Gustav and Koji’s safe return, “no questions asked.” Angelenos were encouraged to submit tips to a dedicated email address and dog lovers everywhere became newly aware of the threat posed by dognappers.
After a two-day hunt for the thieves, both dogs were returned. The Los Angeles Police Department did not initially believe that the individual who handed the dogs over was related to the assault and dognapping. Several months later, however, they arrested Jennifer McBride along with four suspected accomplices.
Gaga’s ordeal is only the most high-profile recent dognapping. More pets get snatched every year than you might think: an estimated two million dogs alone. Fortunately for our four-legged friends, there are plenty of steps you can take to thwart would-be thieves.
- Get your pets microchipped: When dogs get stolen or wander away of their volition, there’s no better way to ensure they find their way home. These tiny chips — just the size of a grain of rice — help identify your pet as a member of the family. Any veterinarian or animal shelter who comes across a lost or stolen dog can scan for a microchip and find the information necessary to help you reunite. Just don’t forget to register your dog’s chip with the appropriate database and keep your contact information up to date.
- Don’t leave dogs unsupervised: While it’s great to run errands alongside our dogs, it’s best to leave them at home if you know you’ll be stopping by establishments that aren’t pet friendly. Leashing dogs outside of stores, even if you’ll only be a few minutes, presents a perfect opportunity for dognappers to strike. It’s less likely for a thief to jump your fence to snatch your unsuspecting pooch, but it can happen. If possible, keep a close eye on your dogs while they’re out in the yard.
- Do your research: Some dog lovers welcome home new puppies and kittens only to learn that they’ve unwittingly become an accomplice in a petnapping scam. Make sure to ask for proof of ownership before adopting a dog online. A reverse image search on Google can help you determine whether a heartbroken pet parent is out there looking for your new dog.
Dognapping: Popular Breeds for Thieves
AKC Reunite President and CEO Tom Sharp notes that expensive, small dogs typically make the most enticing targets for dognappers. For thieves who plan to “flip” or resell dogs to unsuspecting buyers, pricy, purebred dogs promise a considerable payout.
Smaller dogs are easy targets for an obvious reason — they’re easier to snatch and transport than larger breeds. In addition to French Bulldogs, the American Kennel Club notes that the following breeds are the most likely to get stolen:
- Siberian Huskies
- Labrador Retrievers
- Shih Tzu
- German Shepherds
- Yorkshire Terriers
What to Do If Your Dog Gets Lost or Stolen
- Call your local shelters: Dial up the animal shelters near your home to see if they’ve recently come across any lost or stolen pets. Even if nobody’s found them yet, a detailed description of your pup (along with your contact information) could make a reunion possible. If you believe you’re a victim of theft, call the police as well.
- Spread the news: Use both the digital and terrestrial means at your disposal to ensure friends and neighbors can lend a helping hand. Post pictures and a description of your lost pet online and distribute flyers just in case.
- Check lost pet listings: Pet lovers have developed a number of online resources for both locating lost dogs and reuniting found dogs with their families. Do some browsing and you just might find your pet.