For those of you dog lovers fortunate enough to be able to say your little buddy has always been by your side, you probably believe your pet is safe since nothing has happened thus far. Especially if you happen to live in an apparently well-to-do neighborhood. Over the years, all across the country there have been increasing reports of pet theft that have left voids in the hearts of those who felt complete watching sparky jump with joy upon a safe return home. The more and more dog owners there are, the less suspicious it is to see someone running with a pooch on a leash. After all, people out and about for a jog or run are often seen moving at a faster pace than just walking, right?
As heartbreaking as it may be to think, there are actually people out there who steal animals and turn them into research facilities for money-the whole animal testing practice, use them for breeding to turn a profit, simply as an exciting crime of opportunity, use them as a free spontaneous pet adoption opportunity, or in the not-so-known cases “liberated” from the oppression of an unloving and neglectful owner.
Even if you think of your pet as lost, it can actually be a case of pet theft instead. The whole process of taking an animal takes much less time than the recommended length of a thorough hand washing. This is why you often hear people saying “I was only gone for a minute!” when discussing their experience.
My friend Amanda went through the missing/stolen pet scenario once. She tells of a suspicious neighbor lingering around her property several times that happened to dart home quickly upon her pulling up to her driveway. A neighbor never seen for almost two years until weeks before Dexter came up missing. Never filing a complaint or alerting authorities, when time came to fill out a police report, there was no trail of previous stalking so the neighbor wasn’t even questioned. Coincidentally, the nosy neighbor was never seen again since Dexter’s disappearance. Upon seeing the gap in security, Amanda has since installed motion activated cameras, windows and locks linked to Wi-Fi that alert her via text message when someone tries to open them without the proper code, and now uses an app to monitor her children via cameras and logs which record the times her children come and go to aid in peace of mind. As many people have often thought, she never believed it would happen to her. Don’t let yourself fall into this category as well.
Here are some tips you can take to help reduce the likelihood of being involuntarily parted from your four-legged friend:
-Keep your pet inside with you unless you accompany them outside and keep them on a leash. If you do decide to let them outside without your presence, there are steps you can take to increase their safety. Simply thinking you will hear them bark and alert you to a situation is not enough. How many times have you yelled “Shut up!” at their incessant barking, ignored it or simply turned up the volume or plugged in some headphones?
-Keep your dog out of sight from passersby to ensure a sparked interest is not achieved in any would-be dog nappers. This might be more effective for pure breed owners since there are people who can spot one via a quick looksee but can still be effective to everyone nonetheless.
-Keep your pet on a leash. This is law in some places with the exception of off-leash dog parks. There aren’t a lot of people willing to pick up your doggy while you’re still holding the opposite end of the leash, right?
-Don’t leave any of your animals unwatched and unattended while making a quick errand or other task. Even if you think there are enough people watching, not everyone knows you’re the one who left the dog there. They might think any nonchalant character untying Charlie and handing him a treat is the one who put him there. If you’re one of those with a “good reason” there are security locking dog leashes that are similar to bicycle locks in purpose.
-Never leave your dog alone in the car. This is commonplace in a lot of areas and small dogs are easy enough to snatch through the small openings. There are other reasons not to do this to your dog, how would YOU like it?
-Be weary of distractions while your pet is vulnerable such as dog parks, the beach, hiking areas and urban environments. This definitely includes talking to other canines or that sexy senorita attached to said canine especially when you’re not attached to yours.
-Withhold the urge to brag when talking to strangers about your best friend. We all like to feel important while discussing how many USD you spend and so will any thief while recounting the “tail” to his or her buddies.
-Know the locations around you that can raise the demand of pet theft such as research facilities, dog fighting rings, breeders and unofficial breeders selling online. It pays to know this information when deciding how much care and awareness is needed to avoid pet theft.
-Get your pet spayed or neutered to deter the “useful” factor from being exploited to breeders and research facilities that take only unaltered animals. Note: This won’t stop your pet from being taken initially but might heighten the chances of a release or return.
-If you have other dog-owning neighbors around you, stop by and have a chat with them and let them know that you love yours as much as they do theirs and set up an agreement to say something, call or simply step outside when witnessing a stranger approach their pet or yours if either of you choose to leave them outside unattended on a sunny day while you enjoy your leisurely activities inside.
Even though this is a problem on the rise there are things that owners can do to reduce the risk of experiencing the pain and loss of going through this for themselves and their beloved pets. Problems can usually be reduced greatly at the root causes. That is to say, you, the thinking human has the responsibility to take the measures available at minimal effort to ensure the improbability of becoming a victim. There are tips on this list that might not have occurred to you that may now be implemented as a daily practice to ensure the peace of mind we all enjoy without thinking much about it.
Don’t let ignorance play a part in your possibly falling victim to sudden pet loss. Inform yourself and take steps to ensure safety by being aware, cautious and smart about the measures you take to keep your furry pawed friend next to you. Wouldn’t you rather feel like you did all you could to prevent something than to feel like you should have done more?