Monday, October 27, 2008

Pets Thefts Rise As Economy Hits Low

It is very sad, but dog thefts are up. There's a black market for dogs. People sell them on the roadside out of vans, at flea markets or through online classifieds. Some thieves walk off with puppies from pet stores and animal shelters or take dogs tied up outside stores and coffee shops. Other break into cars where dogs have been left while their owners run an errand. Some have even posed as prospective puppy buyers to case breeders' homes, breaking in later to snatch the dogs.

In most states, the value to the animal determines whether pet theft is a felony or a misdemeanor. People increasingly view their pets as members of the family and are willing to cough up big rewards if they go missing.

How to protect your dog:
1. Don't leave your dog alone in your yard for long periods, especially if it's visible from the street. Don't leave your dog in a car.
2. If strangers approach you with admiring comments about your dog, don't share information about his cost or where you live.
3. Report a theft to police and animal control as soon as it happens.
4. Keep a current photo of your pet so you can make flyers or posters immediately and post the photo on web sites.
5. If possible, hold back some kind of descriptive information about your pet so you can sort out crank calls from serious ones.
6. Microchip your dogs and cats, and keep microchip registration information up to date so shelters and veterinarians can contact you if your pet is found. A microchip also serves as proof that an animal belongs to you.
7. A tattoo on the inner thigh is a permanent way of identifying your dog if the tattoo is registered with a tracking organization such as National Dog Registry.
8. Consider GPS for your pet. New GPS collars allow owners to set up a safety zone. If the pet strays beyond it, an alert goes out e-mail and text message. The collars have potential for tracking missing dogs, but they're expensive at $129.99 and up, and they can be removed by someone who finds the dog and decides to keep it.