February 14: Pet Theft Awareness

Pet Theft Banner, Stolen Pets website
Pet Theft Banner, Stolen Pets website

It’s estimated that about two million pets are stolen each year, and only 10% are returned to their owners. Launched in 1988 by the Last Chance for Animals organization, Pet Theft Awareness Day is aimed at educating animal owners about how to keep their pets safe from thieves.

Pet Safe says that the top two reasons pets are stolen are for money and for illegal dog fights. In the case of monetary gain, pets are sometimes stolen with the intent of returning them to the owner for a reward. Other times, pets are stolen to sell it to a third party (for example, to entities using animals for research). As for illegal animal fights, dogs will either be trained as fighters or used as bait. I also found reports of kittens, rabbits, chicken, pigs, and possum being used as bait in not only dog fights but also in dog races.

Wikipedia notes that the training methods involve torturing and killing of animals. The noses of bait animals are often wrapped with duct tape to prevent them from fighting back. Teeth may be broken for the same reason. If the bait animals are still alive after the training sessions, they’re usually given to the dogs to kill as a reward.

The most important thing you can do in recognition of Pet Theft Awareness Day is learn how to keep your pet safe. Pet Safe offers the following advice:

  1. Never let your pet wander freely.
  2. Secure your yard with some type of fencing.
  3. Never leave your pet unattended.
  4. Make sure your pet is wearing identification tags.
  5. Get your pet microchipped.
  6. Keep updated pictures of your pet from different angles to prove ownership.
  7. Invest in pet insurance that will assist with recovery if your pet is lost or stolen.
Buck, Stolen Pets website
Buck, Stolen Pets website

If you want to get further involved, Stolen Pets suggests three main ways.

  • Educate yourself. Check out investigative reports into pet theft. One example is at Dealing Dogs, which recounts the story of C.C. Baird who supplied American research labs with thousands of animals.
  • Petition government. You can help get a bill passed called The Pet Safety and Protection Act, which got started in honor of a dog named Buck who was one of many animals rescued during a raid of animal dealers. After his rescue, Buck was in such bad shape that he stayed at the vet clinic for seven months. When he was well enough, he went to a foster home where he lived until he died a few months later from internal hemorrhaging. The bill “serves to honor Buck and all the animals that die due to inadequate care and abuse” at the hands of dealers.
  • Donate and/or volunteer.



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