Stolen Pets…A Different Way To Celebrate Valentine’s Day
Veterinarian Reviewed on February 13, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Every year in the United States of America, between 1.5 and 2 million pets are stolen and, sadly, only 10% are ever reunited with their owners.
There are many reasons why dog and cats are stolen. The more simple thefts are because someone has seen a cute puppy or kitten and decides that they want that animal to be their pet, and so the steal it away from its loving owners. However, there many unscrupulous people in the world today who steal pets so that they can be sold to research laboratories or pet stores, become bait or fighters for dog-fighting rings, used as a puppy mill breeder, sold as meat to feed other types of exotic pets, and have their fur removed to be used in clothing and other ‘fashion’ accessories. The worst case scenario of a cat or dog being stolen is that they succumb to cruel acts by sadistic people.
There are two types of animal dealers in the United States: Class A and B. The Class A dealers are more reputable breeders and actually keep proper and humane breeding kennels or catteries. However, a Class B dealer is allowed to obtain their animals from ‘random sources’. Since this type of dealer license is relatively inexpensive, coupled with the fact that there are not enough inspectors to enforce existing regulations, it is not a priority of the USDA to ensure the safety and health of Class B dealer animals.
Canadian regulations strictly prohibit laboratories from buying ‘random source’ animals. However, most pets that are stolen in Canada are shipped to laboratories in the United States, as they prefer to work with friendly domestic pets as they are a lot more trusting and friendly towards strangers. On the other hand, Class B dealers prefer Canadian pets because taking pets across the border makes it much harder for their owners to track them down and bring them home.
Since most of these ‘random source’ animals are literally stolen from their own backyards or whilst they are wandering around their neighborhood, there are quite a few steps that you can take to prevent your cat or dog from being stolen:
- Never leave your pet unattended outside, even if it is in your own backyard. It will only take a few seconds for a passerby to steal your pet.
- Try not to let your cat or dog (or any other pet for that matter) to be seen from the street or sidewalk outside your house.
- If you are taking your dog for a walk and have to go into a restaurant or grocery store, do not leave him tied up outside. Anyone can easily untie your dog’s leash and walk off with him.
- Regardless of the heat issues, you should never leave your pet unattended in your car. Thieves have been known to break a window just so that they could steal the pet.
- If you truly have to find a new home for your cat or dog, avoid advertising them as ‘free to good home’. These are the types of ads that the Class B dealers are looking for. Instead, call your local humane society or rescue group to help you in finding a new home for your animal.
- Always spay or neuter your cat or dog. Not only will this decrease for their need to stray, it will also decrease the chance of your cat or dog being used in a puppy mill.
- Make sure that all your animals have up-to-date ID tags and licenses. Another option is to microchip or tattoo your pet as another means of identification.
- Every few weeks, take a new photograph of your dog or cat, and keep them safe along with a written description of your pet.
- If you are not going to be home for long periods of time, it is better to keep your dog or cat inside your house.
- Keep an eye on your pets and know where they are at all times.
- Educate your family, friends, and neighbors about pet theft. The more people who are aware, the less likely that pet theft will occur.
- If a stranger approaches you to ask about breeding or buying your animal, always tell them that your pet has been fixed, even if it’s not true, and immediately write down the stranger’s name, license plate number, and address if you have it.
- Never share the details of your pet’s value, bloodline, or special abilities to any stranger.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan