Pet theft is apparently on the rise. It's estimated that 2 million companion animals are stolen annually in the United States. Unfortunately, most cases go unreported so it's nearly impossible to know the exact number of missing animals.

Pet Theft Awareness Day on Feb. 14 was started in 1988 as a way to educate the public on the issue of pet theft.

The ASPCA says while some animals are snatched from their yards or during home invasions, opportunistic thieves most commonly steal dogs left in cars or tied up outside stores.

They offer the following tips to prevent losing your best buddy to thieves:

  • Never leave your pet tied outside a store or alone in a car, even if you will be inside for just a minute. A well-meaning individual may actually believe your pet has been abandoned, and take her away in an attempt to ensure her safety.
  • Never leave your pet outdoors unattended. Your pet should be safely indoors at all times, and should always be within your sight or earshot when outdoors.
  • When outdoors, your dog should be in a securely fenced yard. Pets who normally stay near home can become frightened, or enticed to leave by an interesting sight or smell, and may not be able to find their way home they may not be technically stolen, but are gone nevertheless.
  • Always check to ensure that fence gates are securely closed before allowing your dog outdoors, and regularly check for holes in or under the fencing that a dog could slip through.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and ID tag with your current contact information included. It is a good idea to microchip your pet, and put the tag that identifies the microchip company and ID number on her collar.
  • Build a pet-friendly network of neighbors who can monitor suspicious activity in your neighborhood and intervene if they see your pet walking with a stranger.
  • Report a missing pet immediately to police and animal control authorities, and mobilize your neighborhood to help search for her. Missing Pet Partnership offers help and information to help locate lost pets

The American Kennel Club offers this advice

  • 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.
  • 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 a 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.
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