Do you have the perfect pet? Chances are you think you do… in fact, chances are 1 in 3 that someone else thinks you do, too.  That’s right, in our nation 1 out of 3 dogs and cats go missing every year. Sadly, only 20% are found and returned to their owners and loving home. Consider that the number of missing dogs and cats is approaching the staggering number of 2 MILLION each year. 80% of those are lost forever, taken for breeding, forced re-homing, animal fighting rings, or end up in shelters where the run the chance of being euthanized if not claimed or re-homed.  According to crime statistics, it is more likely that a stolen computer, cell phone, or car is found and returned than you stolen dog or cat.

Understand, that unbelievable number of 2 million does include runaways and lost pets, not just thefts. However, dog thefts are on the rise and it’s estimated that over 70% of homes have been “cased” as potential targets for pet theft by pet theft rings. There is big money in finding designer, pure breed, or “in demand” dogs for high paying clients. For the most part, the client is unaware that the dog has been stolen or taken from a loving family, they are just receiving the pet they requested and paid to own.  Another type of pet theft is taking form, that is the “ransom” kidnapping of pets. Almost 87 million homes in the U.S. contain 1 or more pets. That is 66% of all households, and growing. Most families view pets as “children” or at least valued possessions, so they are prime targets for ransom schemes that may, or may not, end up with the pet returned after the money is paid.

It may surprise you to know that the Yorkshire Terrier is the most in demand dog for theft right now. However, popular breeds like French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, and small designer dogs are also high on the list of “most wanted” dogs. Pure breed dogs are in demand and have a higher sale value than mixed breeds.  Although its easier to “lift” and control a smaller dog, large and friendly dogs are also easy to corral and take in a “quick grab” fashion.  Peddling to pets is huge business, with the Pet Product industry topping 100 billion dollars in 2022. This makes it safe to say that the first stage, the procurement and sale of dogs and cats, is a very lucrative business.

Where are Pets Stolen From?

The short answer is “anywhere and everywhere a pet may be left unattended or alone.” This would include seemingly safe places like their fenced in yard, front porches or decks, parked cars (locked and unlocked), from dog parks or common play areas, even from inside homes with sliding doors or unlocked windows,

Pet thieves “case” your home and neighborhood.  They learn your routines, watch for vulnerable times or moments when your pet might be unattended or vulnerable… they they strike quickly and silently. If you consider that a “designer dog” can carry a price tag of several thousand dollars, you can see why pet theft is becoming a more frequent crime.  It’s easier than robbing a bank, boosting a car, or kidnapping a person, and it can be a big money game.

What Are the Law and Penalties Surrounding Pet Theft?

Shockingly, only 15 states have laws on the books that are specific to theft of pets.  In most states dogs are considered “property” and pet theft is likely covered by existing general theft and larceny laws or statutes. So this gives a pet no more value than a stolen TV, watch, stereo, or ring.  Pet theft is mainly considered a misdemeanor, and the penalties are no more than small fines, and rarely carry jail time.

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, Texas, Washington, & West Virginia are leading the way by specifically addressing the theft of dogs in their criminal codes. That’s simply not enough to assure that the punishment fits the crime in cases of pet theft. (if you’re concerned about pet theft laws in your state, and feel there should be more aggressive laws on the book, write and contact your districts state representative, or the governors office demanding a review of the laws on the books, and suggesting stiffer penalties and fines)

As a side note, Virginia leads the way by making the theft of a dog a Class 5 felony that carried up to a 10 years of jail time. In Louisiana, if a dogs value exceeds $500, you can be sentenced for up to 10 years in prison, $3000 in fines, or both. Oklahoma has laws that make dog theft a felony conviction with prison time of 6 months to 3 years, and a fine that is equal to up to three times the value of the animal you stole. 

How do I Protect my Pet from Being Stolen?

  • 1- Microchip your Pets! – This is not expensive and any shelter or veterinarians office can trace the animal back to the original owner with just a quick scan. This is the easiest way to mark your pet, and does increase the likelihood of return.

  • 2) Proof of Ownership – If your dog was purchased, adopted, or rescued, you should receive paperwork of the transfer of ownership to you. Adoption papers, licensing documents, and vet records tie the animal to your stewardship. Since you won’t be in possession of the pet when its located, having proof that you are the rightful owner/parent is huge in the battle over custody.

  • 3) Recent Photos that Show Distinguishing Marks or Patterns – Pets coats and marking are often like fingerprints. Be sure you have recent pictures of your animals, pictures that show markings, oddities, injuries, scars, or unique features. Photos of you and your family WITH the missing animals. This is another piece of tracking ownership. Be diligent and specific in photographing your pets.

  • 4) Collar License or ID Tags – Sure, at thief is going to “cut and trash” your pets collar. However, if an animal comes into a shelter or rescue with an ID tag that has phone number, owners name, or some contact info, they will make every attempt to get the pet back to its forever home.  The same goes for “Joe Samaritan” who finds your dog wandering in the woods. The ID or License is an easy way for them to assure the pet gets back to their people.

  • 5) Get Pet Insurance – and assure your policy has coverage for costs associated with recovering or replacing stolen or lost pets. They will likely require a police report and other information… but the money you get back from the policy is something tangible to offset your loss or expenses.

  • 6) Keep Your Eyes Open – If you see something, record it. Be specific… did you see a white van circling your block several times in the past week?  Did you notice a person, or persons, walking around or acting suspicious? Was someone in your yard that shouldn’t have been there? Did someone stop you and pay a strange amount of attention to your pet? Make physical notes of what you see, get detailed, mark times and places it occurred.  These little bits of information might help you recover your pet if it is taken.

What Do I Need to Do if my Pet is Missing and I Suspect Stolen?

  • Take action, the Quicker the Better – Start by filing a police report, and contact animal controls/local shelters. This alerts the authorities to be on the lookout and gets the information trail started.

  • Be that “Squeaky Wheel” – The chances the police are going to “jump on” a missing dog case are slim. By getting out the word to your neighbors, local businesses, the shelters and rescues in your area, and social media sites, then you have hundreds of eyes on the prize… not just yours.  Don’t be afraid to make fliers, knock on door, make phone calls, ask questions. In the hours after the animal goes missing, you need to be Sherlock Holmes and lead the investigation. Who knows, someone might have witnessed the actual theft and have no idea what they saw. Your dogs not going to call you from a cell phone, send a text, or an email. They won’t DM, PM, or hit you up on social media… so be their voice and make noise until someone gives you details they didn’t know they had, or you find clues or evidence you can get to the police.

  • Watch Social Media, Newspapers, “Pet For Sale” Websites, or Bulletin Boards – Your thief might be looking for a buyer, someone might have found your pet but don’t know who they belong too. By making regular searches of common places people gather (Neighborhood social media sites, Facebook or popular gather social media site, digital and print newspapers with ads for pets that are found or available, even the grocery store public bulletin board, can all be a surprisingly effective to get info OUT and find information you weren’t expecting.

  • Get the Story in the Local News – You could be part of a bigger theft picture than you know about. Make calls or send emails to local TV, Radio and News. They will almost always have a “Neighborhood”, “Public Awareness”, or “Local News” corespondent. See if they are willing to mention your pet, post a picture on their social media, talk about the situation and give out your contact information.

Another thing you can do before the dog goes missing is attach a GPS tracker to their collar. Again, the collar might be removed, but you’ll have another piece of the puzzle if you find the tag. You can also get collars that have the GPS tracker in them. 

As you can see, the majority of the burden to assure you keep your pet safe falls on YOU, the owner. Most of the pre-work is things you should have or be doing already.  Keep papers together and current, do your due diligence in getting chipped, licensed, tagged and photographed. Be prepared with a plan to execute in the event you’re 1 out of 3 that has a missing pet. The more you do in advance, the faster you can respond and find your fur kid.

In addition, don’t set your pet up for thieves. Don’t leave them unattended in cars, on a porch, in your back yard, and don’t let them out of your site at dog parks or public areas. The less exposed they are, the less of a mark they become.

This may all seem like “way over the top” preparation to some of you… however, how under prepared do you think the majority of families who are missing their beloved pet feel right now? An ounce of prevention… right?

That’s our review of the tragedy that is pet theft. Hopefully you’ll never have to face a time when your pet goes missing, but if you do, we hope some of the tips, facts, tricks, and details we have provided will make you a bit more prepared to respond, react, and bring that fur baby home!

For all of us at the #FreddieSez news desk, we hope you had a Happy Valentines Day, and that you remembered your furry best friend when you handed out the special treats. I you enjoyed our Dog Blog we invite you to check out our archive section on the Freddie’s Place Website, where you’ll find a variety of blog topics on animal related subjects.

Till we meet here again next week we wish you health, happiness, luck, fun, and a great desire to always be Pet Friendly… #FreddieSez

Research & supporting information for this blog can be found at