For the past two years, the American Kennel Club has been tracking the rising trend of pet thefts across America. According to the AKC's National Pet Theft Database, based on customer and media reports, approximately 177 pets have been reported stolen so far in 2010 compared to 162 in 2009 and 71 in 2008. Despite these sobering statistics, however, those pets with permanent identification can be tracked down and returned to their rightful owners.
After "Jake" disappeared nearly seven years ago, Brad and Amy Davis and their three children had given up hope that their family's pet Weimaraner would ever be found. On September 7th, however, Phyllis Arsenault, a recovery specialist from AKC Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR), the nation's largest not-for-profit pet recovery service, called the Davises to say Jake had been found as a result of his microchip being scanned at the Estill County Animal Shelter in Ravenna, Kentucky – over 420 miles and 7 hours from their home in Michigan.
The Davises reported a then nine-month-old Jake stolen on the day after Thanksgiving in 2003. Amy Davis had taken her daughters to get their Christmas pictures taken and returned no more than 45 minutes later. That was enough time however, for thieves to enter the Davises backyard and get away with Jake. The only thing left in the yard was his collar. "He had been a Houdini-like dog in the past," Amy Davis said, "but there was no way he would have been able to get the collar off by himself." Despite offering rewards for his return, the family never received any news or updates about Jake's whereabouts.
Until last week, that is. After calls from the shelter and AKC Companion Animal Recovery, the Davises learned that Jake had been dropped off at the shelter by a gentleman who had found him running in the street. "The really strange thing is that when we got the calls, we had just returned from Kentucky and our son's BMX race – we were only about 100 miles away from him!" said Amy. Since his return, Jake has transitioned back into his family quite easily, even making friends with the Davises' new six-month-old puppy.
"When the shelter staff contacted us I was really glad we had the family's updated information in our database and that we were able to reunite them with Jake," said Phyllis Arsenault, the recovery specialist who handled the case. "When I spoke to Brad, he was just ecstatic about his dog's return."
"We are thrilled to reunite the Davises and Jake after all these years," said Tom Sharp, CEO of AKC CAR. "Jake's homecoming demonstrates how important it is for pet owners to first, verify their pet's microchip is enrolled in a pet recovery service, like AKC CAR that charges no annual fees or record update fees, and second, to make certain their contact information is always up-to-date."
For more information on AKC CAR's microchip and lifetime recovery service call AKC CAR at 1-800-252-7894 or go to www.akccar.org.
In response to this continuing trend, AKC offers the following advice to prevent your "best friend" from being the target of a crime.
In the Neighborhood
•Don't let your dog off-leash – Keeping your dog close to you reduces the likelihood it will wander off and catch the attention of thieves.
•Don't leave your dog unattended in your yard – Dogs left outdoors for long periods of time are targets, especially if your fenced-in yard is visible from the street.
•Be Cautious with information – If strangers approach you to admire your dog during walks, don't answer questions about how much the dog cost or give details about where you live.
On the Road
•Never leave your dog in an unattended car, even if it's locked – Besides the obvious health risks this poses to the dog, it's also an invitation for thieves, even if you are gone for only a moment. Leaving expensive items in the car such as a GPS unit or laptop will only encourage break-ins and possibly allow the dog to escape, even if the thieves don't decide to steal it too.
•Don't tie your dog outside a store – This popular practice among city-dwelling dog owners can be a recipe for disaster. If you need to go shopping, patronize only dog-friendly retailers or leave the dog at home.
•Protect your dog with microchip identification – Collars and tags can be removed so make sure you have permanent ID with a microchip. Thieves will not know the dog has a microchip until a veterinarian or shelter worker scans it so keep contact information current with your microchip recovery service provider. For more information, enroll your pet in a 24-hour recovery service and sign-up at www.akccar.org.
•If you suspect your dog has been stolen – Immediately call the police / animal control officer in the area your pet was last seen and file a police report. If your dog has a microchip, ask to have that unique serial number, along with the dog's
description, posted in the "stolen article" category on the National Crime Information Center.
•Canvass the neighborhood – Talk to people in the immediate vicinity where your pet went missing for possible sightings of the actual theft.
•Have fliers with a recent photo ready to go if your dog goes missing – Keep several current photos (profile and headshot) of your dog in your wallet or on an easily accessible web account so that you can distribute immediately if your pet goes missing.
•Contact the media – Call the local TV station, radio station and newspaper and ask to have a web post put out about your missing pet.
DON'T BUY STOLEN PETS
•Don't buy dogs from the internet, flea markets, or roadside vans –There is simply no way to verify where an animal purchased from any of these outlets came from. Web sites and online classifieds are easily falsified, and with roadside or flea market purchases not only do you not know the pet's origins but you will never be able to find or identify the seller in case of a problem.
•Even newspaper ads may be suspect – Adult dogs offered for sale at reduced prices, for a "relocation" fee, or accompanied by requests for last minute shipping fees are red flags. Dog owners who truly love their animals and are unable to keep them will opt to find a loving home without compensation for re-homing the animal.
•Seek out reputable breeders or rescue groups – Visit the home of the breeder, meet the puppy's mother, and see the litter of puppies. Developing a good relationship with the breeder will bring you peace of mind when purchasing. Contacting breed rescue groups can also be a safe alternative if you are looking for an adult dog.
•Demand proper papers on your purebred puppy – Ask for the AKC Litter Registration Number and contact AKC customer service at 919-233-9767 to verify registration authenticity of your purebred puppy.
Source: American Kennel Club Press Release