Pet Theft

Pet Theft

You let your pet outside to play in your backyard, then leave to run some errands. When you return home, your pet is gone. Neighbors report they saw an unfamiliar van cruising the local streets.

You place a "Free to Good Home" ad, and a friendly couple with a child come by. Believing that your pet will go to a loving family, you entrust it to them. Later, you call to see how your pet is doing, but the phone number you have been given has been disconnected.

These scenarios can and do happen. Of 5 million family pets reporting missing each year, as many as 2 million are stolen. No town or city is spared. Know that it can happen to your pet.

Hundreds of thousands of pets are "adopted" under false pretenses from "Free" ads, which are a goldmine for pet thieves. Tragically, these devoted animals are not bound for "good homes." Once taken, these innocent victims are sold into a life of misery, pain and suffering, often the victims of research or bait in dog fighting.

Excerpted from "Stolen for Profit: The True Story Behind the Disappearance of Millions of America's Beloved Pets" by Judith Reitman/Kensington Books.

How to Protect Your Pets from Theft:

  • The one golden rule in protecting your pet: NEVER leave your animal alone where he or she can be seen by thieves and taken.

Other tips to help safeguard your pet from theft:

  • Do not leave your dog or cat outside alone in an unsecured yard, or let your animal roam the streets unsupervised.
  • Do not leave your animal inside your car or tied outside a store while you "just run in." One careless moment can deliver your beloved pet into the hands of an animal dealer.
  • Provide your pet with proper identification. In addition to always wearing a collar and tags, microchip your pet. Collar and tags can be removed. Also, keep a current photo of your pet.
  • Don't put out "free to good home" ads, unless you are prepared to demand personal references from each inquirer and verify them carefully before giving away your pet.
  • Report all evidence of local pet theft activity to the police.
  • If pets are disappearing frequently from your community, talk to neighbors and the police about neighborhood patrolling and protecting pets. Post warnings to the community about pet theft.
  • Write the U.S. Department of Agriculture and demand that they enforce laws written to prevent the abduction of companion animals into research labs. Demand that individuals and institutions dealing in stolen animals be subjected to fines, jail sentences and revocation of licenses. Write to: Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14th and Independence S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250.

If your pet has been stolen, or you have information about pet theft operations in your area, call the ARL's Cruelty Intervention Coordinator at (515) 229-7392, or e-mail