The American Dog Trainers Network

Protect Your Pet from Being Stolen

a picture of a large shaggy dog!

by Robin Kovary

 Whether lost or stolen, losing a pet is a harrowing experience which often leaves owners racked with grief, terror and guilt. There are, however, preventive steps owners can take to help protect their beloved canine companions.

I ) Be sure to attach identification and license tags on your puppy or dog's collar or harness. ID tags should include: the word "REWARD" in capital letters on the first line: your address city and state; your home & work phone numbers; and a friend or relative's phone number. (Generally, it is recommended that your dog 's name not be included on the ID tag, as it only serves to give a pet thief more control over your dog.)

2) Take some goods clear photographs of your puppy every few months through at least one year of age, then once a year thereafter. Besides the fact that photos of your puppy will be treasured for many years to come, a current photo of your pet can be very helpful in his safe recovery should he ever become lost. Remember, black & white photos produce better zeroxes than color photos do.

3) In addition to ID tags, owners should consider having their puppy or dog tattooed and micro-chipped.

4) Never allow your puppy or dog to roam through the neighborhood without you.

5) When allowing your puppy outdoors, whether in an urban or suburban environment, keep your puppy leashed at all times except when safely confined to your fenced-in yard or property, or in a safe, enclosed dog run. Even within the seemingly safe confines of one's own property, do not leave your pet unattended if there is any risk of pet theft. In the large majority of circumstances, owner supervision is strongly recommended.

6) When doubtful about a stranger's intentions, do not offer them any information about your dog, such as his or her name, breed, or what you paid for your dog.

7) Have your dog spayed or neutered to help prevent risky romantic escapades.

8) Never leave your dog tied unattended in front of a supermarket, store, bank, or restaurant, or leave your pet unsupervised in an automobile. Tying an unsupervised dog (especially in an urban area), can result in your pet being attacked by another dog, or stolen, harassed, or poisoned.

9) Be especially watchful over your pets when it is snowing, foggy or dark outside, as well as whenever traveling or visiting an area unfamiliar to you or your pet. These situations may leave your pet more vulnerable to becoming lost.

10) Before entrusting your dog to a boarding or training kennel or other pet care service or facility, be sure to thoroughly investigate its reputation.

11) Obedience train your dog. A well-trained dog is safer, more responsive and happier.


What To Do If Your Pet Is Ever Lost Or Stolen

I) Begin the search for your pet immediately. Don't wait a few days hoping he'll return on his own. Begin looking for your dog by circling around your block, then gradually widen the circle to include neighboring areas. Be sure to have a friend or family member wait outside your home in case your dog returns to your building doorstep. Check all local parks, dog runs and any of your dog's favorite places throughout town.

2) Keep your telephone manned 24 hours a day in case someone calls about your pet. Hopefully your pet's collar has ID tags attached which will make it easier for someone finding your pet to call you.

3) Put together a clear, bold, easy-to-read "lost dog" flyer. The two- line, bold headline should read: REWARD: LOST DOG (or cat)."The flyer should also include the following information: your pet's general physical description and temperament; the date and location your pet was lost; two or more telephone numbers where people should call of they find your pet. While your flyer should offer a reward for the safe return of your pet, it should not specify the amount of the reward.

To help prevent heartless con artists and cruel pranksters from preying on you, leave one or two physical characteristics of the description you offer on the flyers you post (such as a single white spot on his back left paw). If a caller claims to have found your pet, ask whether the pet has any special markings, or do the reverse, and ask if the pet possesses any markings or other physical traits that really don't exist. If the caller answers incorrectly, then the call may be a hoax.

4) Distribute "Lost Pet" flyers to friends, neighborhood residents, doormen, and businesses. Post flyers on all neighborhood bulletin boards. Flyers should also be handed out and posted throughout the neighborhood where your pet was lost if other than your own.

5) Contact all local animal shelters, humane societies, veterinary hospitals, and animal control officers immediately. Also. contact your local police, sheriffs, pet supply stores, groomers, boarding kennels, professional dog walkers, dog runs, and dog training schools. After calling these places and people to alert them to your lost pet, mail them "Lost and Found" flyers containing your pet's description and photo. After that, visit these facilities as often as possible, and/or make daily follow up calls to each facility.

6) Contact any agencies, organizations and services that deal with recovering lost pets, such as Petfinders (I-800-666-5778), and Sherlock Bones (see Helplines and Hotlines in the RESOURCES section).

7) Place "Lost Pet" ads (with your pet's photograph if possible) in the 'Lost and Found' and 'Pet' sections of all local newspapers.

8) The internet is also a good place to let lots of people know about a lost pet.

9) If your dog is tattooed contact National Dog Registry (800-NDR-DOGS), and Tattoo-A-Pet (718-646-8203).

10) If a caller claiming to have found your pet tells you to meet him at a strange or dangerous location, or to send him money in order to get your puppy back, or should you suspect that the caller is a con artist, agree to do whatever he asks, but call the police (speak to a police detective), your local ASPCA (speak with humane enforcement) and your local animal control of officers immediately. They will set up a sting operation to catch the con artist.

[Also see: Lost and Found Pets under Hotlines and Helplines
in the RESOURCE section.]

Copyright 1995 - 2000,  Robin Kovary

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Robin Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline director
 and canine behavioral consultant.