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— June 5, 2012 —

Take your dog with you, or leave him home…but whatever you do, don’t do this.
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

Imagine this, you are going out to run a few errands and you want to take your best friend. It’s a little too hot to leave him in the car, so you just tie him up outside the store. You’re only going to be in there for a few minutes, right. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, the worst thing that could happen is a nightmare. Not just for you, but for your dog, too.

Recently Amy and I were out running errands and came across a dog tied up outside a drug store. The little Dachshund was there when we went in and she was still there when we left. We actually waited with her for a while. Her owner must have noticed us. He came out to check on his dog. This little girl was quite fearful and I actually thought she might bite someone if they tried to pet her. Of course, this would open the owner up to liability, especially if she bit a child.

Another serious issue is the rise in dognappings. Every year, dogs are reported stolen in Chicago. That’s right, dognapping is real and it could happen to you. I won’t leave my bike outside a store without locking it up, but I’m constantly amazed that people will leave their dog outside a store secured with nothing more than a thin leash or an even thinner flexi leash. Just for the heck of it, I googled �dog tied up at store stolen� and I got over 5 million hits. Dogs are stolen from cars and have even been taken directly from their owners as they are walking them.

According to a Huffington Post article, first posted on 08/16/11, the American Kennel Club says that dog thefts were up by 32% in 2011. This is a national statistic, but I’d bet that the stats are similar locally. Most people think that dog theft just happens when someone happens to see a cute dog outside the store and they untie it and walk away. If you’re watching your dog you can go out and stop them, right? The fact is that there are organized groups who drive around looking for dogs to steal. They pull up, cut a leash, toss the dog into a vehicle and drive away faster than you can get the license number.

The reason for this is MONEY, pure and simple. Dogs can be sold for a few reasons and none of them are good. Some animal dealers collect dogs and sell them to research labs. Personally, I couldn’t imagine my dogs being used for animal testing. I also couldn’t bear the idea of my dogs being used for bait for dog fighting, which is another thing that stolen dogs can be used for. Pets are often used for fighting dogs to �practice� on. The dogs are often put into pits with their teeth removed or their mouths taped shut. It’s an ugly truth and it shouldn’t happen to any dog.

Even in the best case, stolen dogs are often held until the thief finds a Lost Dog poster. The cunning thief then calls you up pretending to be a good samaritan and returns your dog; after you promise them a handsome profit for their troubles of course.

What do you do if you’re a victim of dognapping? First, call the authorities! Even if it seems like a waste of time, the police do track trends and if there is a rash or dog thefts in an area they can increase awareness in their patrols. Second, contact the local shelters and vet offices. Your dog may show up as stray or be found and turned in. There are also websites like Lost Dog Illinois and Fido Finder that can help you locate your dog. Another important step is to have your dog microchipped. This way if he turns up at a shelter you will be contacted. I recently read a story about a cat that was returned to its owner after being in another home for ten years.

Pet theft is on the rise and is a crime of opportunity. Don’t give the thief the opportunity and NEVER leave your best friend tied up outside a store or left alone in your car or yard. If you need to run errands, please leave your pet at home.