We all do things to make sure our valuable possessions are safe and secure, whether it's locking our cars, dead bolting our front doors or chaining up our bike. But did you know that you also have to keep your dog safe from potential theft?

While dognapping might not be something that crosses your mind on a daily basis, it’s important to be aware of this issue and know what to do if your dog is stolen. Dognappings are a lot more common than you may think. It is estimated that over two million dogs are stolen across the United States annually and this number is on the rise. The American Kennel Club found that dognappings have increased by a whopping 31% in recent years.

While there are many different reasons why dognappings occur, money is the most common motivator. Some criminals steal dogs with the intention to return the lost dog for a monetary reward from its owner. Others steal purebreds and try to resell the dog to unsuspecting individuals, pet stores, or puppy mills. Other less common, but still possible, reasons for dog theft include stealing dogs for fighting rings or having your pup taken by a disgruntled family member or neighbor.

Some dog breeds are higher targets for theft than others. The most commonly snatched dogs include small valuable purebreds like Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, and French Bulldogs. These dogs can be easily carried off and fetch high resale prices. Pit bulls are another breed that is commonly stolen for illegal dog fighting purposes. However, fighting rings have also been known to steal small breeds to use as bait dogs.

It’s scary to think that in the blink of an eye, you could have your beloved dog snatched away by a criminal who sees an opportunity to make an easy profit off of your pup. Regardless of the reason your pet was taken, it’s critical to act fast if you hope to track down and recover your dog. Check out our helpful guide on what to do if your dog is stolen and what preventive measures you can take to safeguard your precious pooch.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Stolen

File a Police Report

As soon as you suspect that your dog has been stolen, you should immediately call the local police department and ask to file a report. Since pets are viewed as “property” under the law, dog theft is a felony or misdemeanor offense that the police must take action against. Make sure you include your dog’s microchip number (if it has one) and a detailed physical description in the report. Promptly taking this action will create a record of your stolen dog and therefore, make it easier to retrieve your pooch if you figure out his whereabouts. This report can also help if you have to bring the suspect to court to regain possession of your dog.

Call Animal Control and Local Shelters

After you file a police report, your next step should be to call animal control and check a few nearby shelters to see if they have found your dog. There is a chance that your dog is simply lost and hasn’t been stolen. Or, sometimes thieves panic after abducting a dog and abandon it. Website information isn’t always correct so it’s important to visit these organizations in person. When visiting these organizations, make sure you file a missing dog report that includes a detailed physical description of your dog, its microchip number, and your contact information. It is also a good idea to provide them with a recent photo of your dog so they can be on the lookout if your pup shows up.

Search the Surrounding Area

Next, you should begin searching the area where your pet was last seen on foot and call out your dog’s name. If your pup is within earshot, he may be able to hear you calling him and try to escape from his abductor. Make sure you bring a photo of your pup with you and ask people in the area if they have observed any suspicious activity concerning your dog or know any information about where your dog may be.

Create Missing Dog Fliers

If you don’t find your dog while searching the area, the next step you should take is to create a missing dog flier. The flier should include a prominent headline that reads “MISSING DOG,” as well as a clear photo of your dog and a detailed description that includes your dog's name, color, sex, breed, age, weight, place last seen and the date the dog was lost.

It is best not to mention that you think your pet was stolen, as it may deter someone from coming forth with your dog or essential information on your pup’s whereabouts. Since most pets are taken for the purpose of making a profit, you should offer a reward but do not specify the amount. Additionally, some say it might be a good idea to mention that your dog has a condition that requires medical attention, as this type of white lie may deter a dognapper from keeping your pup.

Print big, brightly colored signs, as well as single sheet fliers and post them in the areas where your dog was last seen. There’s a chance that the dognapper will pass through the scene of the crime again and notice the fliers offering a reward for the return of your dog. Get the local community involved in your search as well by posting the fliers in prominent places around town such as local stores, restaurants, offices or any other areas with high foot-traffic. By making a lot of noise with fliers and drawing a lot of attention to the situation, thieves may also be spooked and release your dog themselves.

Be cautious of pet-recovery scammers who may try to trick you into paying a reward for a dog that they don’t have or isn’t yours. Always leave one or two of your dog’s identifying features off of the missing dog flier. If someone claims to have your dog, they should be able to provide you with a description of these characteristics.

Spread the Word About Your Stolen Pet

You should find as many outlets as possible to spread the word about your stolen dog. Social media is a great place to start. You can post a digital version of your missing dog flier on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then, urge your friends and family to do the same. You can also reach out to local media, like newspapers and radio stations, and tell them about your stolen dog. They may be sympathetic towards your situation and publish or broadcast a report about your stolen pet.

Search for Ads Featuring Your Dog

If your pup was stolen with the intention to be resold, you might be able to find him being advertised for sale. Frequently check newspaper ads and internet listings on websites like Craigslist for advertisements featuring your dog. Some pets are transported across state borders after they are taken, so make sure your search is broad. If you think you’ve found your dog, take extra safety precautions by asking the police to assist you with a supervised recovery of the dog.

Continue Your Search Efforts

Trying to locate your stolen dog can be incredibly frustrating and emotionally exhausting. However, it’s important to stay optimistic and continue your search efforts. Keep looking for your dog in advertisements and check in with the police, local shelters, and rescue organization regularly. Most importantly, don’t give up hope. Lots of missing pets eventually get reunited with their families.

Steps to Protect Your Dog Against Theft

Microchip Your Dog  

One step you can take to increase the chances of recovering your stolen dog is to make sure your furry friend is microchipped and file a report with the microchip company as soon as you suspect your dog has been stolen. When newly adopted pets are brought to the vet, one of the first things they do is check for a microchip. If a microchip is detected, the new owners will typically contact the microchip company to have the chip transferred and discover that the dog is stolen.

Never Leave Your Dog Unattended

One way to prevent your dog from being snatched is to make sure you do not give dognappers the opportunity to swipe your dog. Never leave your dog unattended, whether it’s in a car, tied up outside of a store, or even in your fenced yard. When walking your dog, always use a leash and keep a close eye on your pup at the dog park. Also, be wary of strangers who are overly interested in your dog and ask questions about where you live, the value of your dog, or whether your dog has been spayed/neutered.

Consider Using a Location Tracking Collar

The faster you can track down your pet, the better chance you have of recovering it. So, it’s not a bad idea to stay one step ahead of dog thieves by using a GPS-enabled collar. Fi has a sleek design that’s much more inconspicuous than other tracking collars on the market. Therefore, your dog’s abductor may not even notice that your pup is wearing a location tracking device. If that’s the case, you’ll be able to track down your pup using the collar's real-time GPS and notify the police of his location. To avoid any potentially dangerous situations, it is best to involve law enforcement when retrieving your dog instead of confronting the dognapper on your own.