Dog Theft: How to Protect Your Best Friend from Being Stolen

people stealing dogs

Pet thieves will stop at nothing to steal a dog for money. Dog theft is a heartbreaking reality for millions of dog owners.

Many people believe that if the lost animals are dog-microchipped, they can activate a tracking system for their animals. That is not the case. Missing dogs must enter a shelter or vet that can read the microchip. That’s the only way a microchip can save and locate your stolen dog.

Pet theft is a problem; sadly, dog thieves know how to evade local law enforcement and rescue groups. One of the key drivers in pet theft is the cost of purebred dogs and designer mixes. Be wary of strangers to prevent thieves from stealing your dog.

High-value dogs like Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, and French Bulldogs are easy targets and a low priority for police to recover. But armed with some basic preventative measures, you can keep your best friend safe from thieves.

Top 9 Most Disturbing Stats

Stealing Dogs

stealing dog

People who steal dogs don’t come with warning labels. They are excellent at misguiding victims and know how to handle dogs and hoodwink innocent people.

If you hire a dog walker, ensure they are vetted with a reputable organization and ask for references. Once you have those references, call them to make sure they’re who they say they are.

Thieves or dog flippers will even go to shelters and snap up sellable breeds—animal shelters home as many as 25% of purebreds. 

In the US Alone, Almost 2 Million Domestic Animals Are Victims of Dog Theft (American Kennel Club)

Don’t think that it can’t happen to you. You can become a target if you leave your dog unattended outside a shop or garden. The problem is so prolific that there’s even a National Pet Theft Awareness Day (Feb 14th) to make people aware. 

Its purpose is to alert dog owners and potential buyers of stolen dogs on how to prevent them and catch these criminals in action.

Only 6% of Owners Get Their Dogs Back From Shelters (ASPCA)

steal dog

A survey by ASPCA found after dog theft, only 6% of the dogs are retrieved by owners from animal shelters. Discovering that someone stole the family dog is devastating news. The heartbreaking realization that a beloved pet is missing causes people to panic.

A clear course of action includes filing a police report and activating the credentials associated with the microchipped dog.

Steps to take in cases of dognapping:

  • Stay calm and speak with family members & friends
  • Contact the police and animal control if you’re sure the dog was stolen
  • Report dog as stolen to National Crime Information Center with microchip ID#
  • Register with local shelters to alert them of the missing dog
  • Put up posters (there are pros and cons to offering rewards)
  • Get your proof of ownership ready
  • Walk the neighborhood or last whereabouts
  • Don’t give up hope, and safely use social media resources

Although the news is tough to bear, don’t give up. Instead, harness your energies, become one of the 10% who get their dogs back, and help put the law on dog nappers.

Dog thefts in the United States have risen by nearly 40% since 2021(AKC Reunite)

The data from AKC Reunite indicates that incidents of dogs being stolen in the United States have increased by almost 40% when compared to the numbers reported in 2021.

Anyone who has shopped or bought a purebred or designer mix dog in the last decade knows that the cost of dogs has risen drastically. The average price is between $1000 to $2000 for the cost of a dog, and there are interesting dog statistics dog owners should know.

However, the cost of high-demand dogs like Bulldogs can range upward of $3000 since they often require complicated cesarean section to deliver a litter.

These costs don’t include any shipping costs and extras. Of course, prices rise based on the breeder. Sadly, those costs and the ability for thieves to snap up a couple of grand in the blink of an eye make them a target.

Pet Theft Task Force Revealed, 7 in 10 Pet Thefts Involved Dogs (Gov.UK)

stolen or lost pet

Pet theft is a problem worldwide. The UK is a dog nation and has a special task force to tackle the problem.

The unit included officials from government offices, police, prosecutors, and other local officials. This group gathered and reviewed evidence from many sources, including animal welfare groups, experts, and dog advocates, highlighting the problem.

The evidence found that approximately 2,000 pets were officially stolen. Out of this group, seven out of ten pets were dogs. The data also reviewed statistics pertaining to the price of stolen and popular dog breeds.

The cost of in-demand breeds rose by 89% over the pandemic, further driving an increase in dog theft.

Nearly 10 Million Dogs and Cats Go Missing Annually in the US (Peeva)

why do people steal dogs

It’s literally a heartstopping experience when you find your beloved pet missing. Sadly, according to the American Humane Association, pets sometimes wander off and become lost.

As many as one out of three go missing during their lifetime, and around 10 million dogs and cats are either lost or abducted in the USA annually.

The real heartbreaker is that less than 23% of lost pets have a happy reunion with their pet parents. Shelters care for between 9,450,000 and 9,632,000 lost animals; sadly, 80% of missing pets don’t return home.

Animals shelters and their volunteer staff working in over 3,500 shelters are exceptional individuals who work tirelessly to reunite pets with their owners or find suitable families with new forever homes.

66% of All US Households Have a Risk of Pet Theft (APPA)

dog kidnapping data by american kennel club

Pet theft has become a global problem, and although pet insurance might cover the financial loss of a pet, it’s not a substitute for the grief families endure. Since the rise of pet ownership and the high in-demand breeds, criminals have ripe pickings of choice. 66% of US households own a pet, and pet theft affects all of them.

As pet owners, it’s become vital to remain vigilant. Never leave your precious pet in a vehicle (for many reasons), tied outside a store, or unattended in your accessible yard.

Why Do People Steal Dogs

Good question. It’s mindboggling that people can be cruel and tear a family pet from its owners for a few lousy bucks. Money is the primary motivation for dog flippers, a common term for dog thieves, and easy profit.

These evil people will sell breedable dogs to puppy mill breeders and sell them for dog fighting rings and research.

People Steal Dogs for Their Increased Resale Value of Around $2,000 and Above (I Heart Dogs)

dog kidnapping

Dog nappers rank right up there as the most soulless (insert long list of derogatory terms) who are not concerned for these vulnerable canines’ well-being. Since many dog breeds are worth upwards of a couple of grand, dognappers sell for $2,000 plus the resale value. 

What’s worse is that they also sell the breeds that fall under the pitbull umbrella to illegal dog fighting rings. Some dogs on the premium list are also on the most wanted list by pet owners. Thieves will snap up dogs on the most expensive dog breed list if the opportunity arises.

Pitbulls Are Stolen for Illegal Fighting ( AKC Reunite)

people stealing dogs

Once more, there is no such dog as a pit bull. It’s a catchall term in the USA for the American Pitbull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, American Bulldog, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier and mixed breeds.

Dog fighting is a felony offense in America punishable by jail time. Yet, these unscrupulous thieves will abscond with these terrier breeds when the opportunity knocks to sell them for illegal fight clubs.

15 US States Have Laws for Dog Theft (Canine Journal)

Laws are changing, and, finally, 15 states added dog theft to the criminal code. However, although the laws exist, it doesn’t deter criminals. Make sure you keep an eye on your pet. Pets that become separated from their pet parents experience emotional trauma. Many animal captivity statistics support this.

Below are the states with law enforcement against dog thefts.

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Purebreds Are the Most Commonly Stolen Dogs (Paws)

stolen purebred dogs

Purebreds are stolen for their monetary resell value. Dog nappers steal pedigree dogs because they are easy to resell to many consumers.

There is a high demand for certain purebreds and designer mixes, and thieves sell them at half the market price. So, if someone offers to sell you a bargain basement price French Bulldog, you should hear warning bells go off. 

A great way to outsmart these culprits is to see if you can have the dog checked by your vet. If you get the go-ahead, have the vet run the microchip. Another reason thieves steal dogs is for the reward. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and Rottweilers might end up as bait dogs in an illegal dog fighting ring.

And it gets worse. Class B dealers sell dogs and cats for laboratory testing and biomedical research, although that is illegal on many levels.

High-Value Dogs, Such as Bulldogs and French Bulldogs, and Smaller Breeds, Such as Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas, Are Targets (AKC)

dog napping in dog parks

Thieves will snap up these dogs because they are easy to pick up and sell quickly. For these high-demand breeds, the size makes them vulnerable to theft. While thieves often act on moments of opportunity, they can easily be put inside a large bag or hidden inside a coat.

Boston Terrier, Pomeranian, and Maltese Are Also Among the Most Commonly Stolen Dog Breeds (I Heart Dogs)

common stolen dog breeds

There is an actual demand for small purebreds and designer mixes. While getting an incredible bargain price on an adorable Yorkie or French Bulldog sounds tempting, please do your research. Don’t buy some made-up sap story.

Check the facts and see if the dog has a microchip. Also, check with the local organization to see if the dog matches the missing dog profiles. Buying a stolen dog means you’re in possession of stolen goods. Here are the top ten most stolen dogs.

Designer Breeds Like Popular Labradoodles Are Sold for Half the Asking Price of a Legitimate Breeder (Paws)

most dogs are stolen designer Breeds

Certain purebreds and designer breeders are so cute we can’t get enough of them. But they are expensive. Legitimate breeders invest money, time, and resources to develop their dogs’ best features, including overall health, temperament, and look. Not everyone can afford to spend a few grand plus the cost of keeping a dog.

Be very cautious if you stumble across someone selling any of these breeds and have just one to sell. Of course, these criminals are experts at fabricating backstories, but purebred dogs have a long traceable history.

Ask for the original breeder’s contact information. Believe it or not, that is your responsibility before buying a stolen pet and perpetuating the problem.

Sorry for yelling at you, but pet parents who lose their pets to theft need our help. Remember also that animal shelters have a great selection of adoring pooches that need homes too.

Charges For Stealing a Dog

Below are statistics about dog theft charges.

dog napping

Sometimes, the legal system moves too slowly and doesn’t consider a pet person’s attachment to their companion animal.

Unsurprisingly, 92% of pet owners defend their pets as family members but don’t always have the law on their side to protect them from criminals. Dognapping does not have legal ramifications in all states.

Slowly, the legal system is catching on to how important pets are, but most states need more legal support and list our pet dogs and cats as replaceable goods like cars, jewels, and electronics with an insurance value. That means criminals stealing our pets get charged with theft and larceny laws and not just get a slap on the wrist.

In Virginia, Dognapping Is a Class 5 Felony, And the Punishment Is a 10-Year Jail Sentence (Virginia Law)

About time! Now we need to band together and catch these scumbags stealing family pets. Virginia finally got it together and lists dog theft as a Class 5 Felony. If convicted, these criminals face a 10-year sentence even if the dog is a free animal shelter dog.

In Louisiana, Dog Stealing Can Result in Imprisonment For up to 10 Years or a Fine of up to $3,000 or Both (Justia US Law)

dog stealing

It’s tricky to define a person’s feelings about their pet dog based on the cost, but at the same time, expensive dogs are a criminal target.

Louisiana law works by punishing dog theft based on the value of the stolen dog. Dogs worth over $500 (this law still makes pets a property asset) result in a 10-year prison term and/or a fine of up to three grand.

In Oklahoma, Dog Stealing Can Result in Imprisonment From 6 Months to 3 years (Justia US Law)

Look out, dognappers. Oklahoma laws are gunning for you. Criminals caught fencing stolen pets face a felony conviction with a six-month to three-year sentence. These jerks can also get fined three times the value of the pet they stole (though pets are priceless) up to half a million.

In New York State, Dog Stealing Is a Class E Crime With 6 Month In Jail (Animal Law)

dog theft

New York laws understand that pet owners need help fighting these criminals who take what isn’t theirs. Thieves face fines from $200 to $ 1,000 independent of the dog’s insurance or purchase value as of 2014. It’s a Class E felony and another reason why victims of pet theft must band together to influence change.

Class E felony is the lowest felony charge awarded for serious crimes like DUI (Driving Under the Influence).

In Mississippi, Dog Stealing Can Result in Imprisonment For up to 6 Months or a Fine of up to $500 or Both (Animal Law)

Although there is always room for improvement, the system seems to move slowly when you’re the victim. Mississippi at least recognizes dog-napping as a felony punishable with a fine of $500 and county jail time for six months (or both).


Which Breed Is Stolen Most Frequently in the US?

Thieves target high-value dogs that are easy to catch and sell. Therefore, a few breeds are popular with these criminals (in alphabetical order):

  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Boston Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • French Bulldog
  • German Shepherd
  • Labradoodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Maltese
  • Pomeranian
  • Yorkshire Terrier

How to Keep Your Dog Safe When Pet Theft Is on the Rise?

You can do a few things to reduce the chances of your dog becoming vulnerable to pet theft. For starters, don’t leave your dog alone in a car, tied outside a store or restaurant (even for a minute), or unattended in your own backyard. Microchipping is crucial.

Get your pet spayed and neutered to deter criminals looking to sell your pet as breeding stock for puppy mills or backyard breeders. Also, verify any doggy daycare and dog watchers. Vigilance is the key.

Moreover, incorporating technological advancements in pet management, like those detailed in Halo collar reviews and SpotOn fence reviews, has proven beneficial for myriad pet owners aiming to ensure their four-legged friends’ utmost safety.

Amidst rising pet theft, employing such smart, dependable, and innovative gadgets can be a pivotal step in safeguarding your cherished canine companion.

Which US States Have Prohibited Animal Tethering?

Tethering or leashing laws in different states are making inroads to prevent animal cruelty and neglect. These states (2022) and these local communities have strict provisions against animals being tethered.

Restriction on tethering also changes from district to state. Contact your local municipal office if you need to report someone repeatedly tethering or chaining their animals.

How Could Dognapping Be Prevented?

There are numerous ways to prevent dog napping. The most important is to never leave your dog unattended, even for a second, under any circumstances.

Microchipping might help, but it’s not the same as a GPS tracker on a collar (which can also be removed and discarded)—neutering, spaying, and training your dog.

What Actions Should Be Taken If Your Dog Is Stolen?

Hard to do, but equally important is to remain calm. As a pet owner, having a plan for emergencies is a good idea. First, ask your family and friends who might have taken the dog for a walk without your knowledge. Don’t waste precious resources on a lost dog; it requires a different approach.

Once you know your dog has been dognapped, call the police and file a complaint. Also, contact the local animal control officer and your local shelters. Register your dog to ensure its microchip is activated and alert veterinary clinics and shelters.

Distribute flyers, walk the neighborhood, contact your vet, talk to people at your local dog park, and hand out pictures. There is conflicting info about offering a reward. Some crooks take animals to get compensation. Use whatever resources are at your fingertips. If it’s a purebred, contact the breeder and let them know.


There’s no doubt it’s devastating to lose a beloved pet to thieves. However, don’t give up hope. Some preventative measures like a GPS fence collar might buy you enough time to track where your pet is being taken.

However, never approach these criminals and alert the police. Microchipping works if your pet enters a shelter or vet clinic that checks the chip.

Don’t trust unvetted people with access to your pet.

Get in touch with organizations like, Missing Animal Response Network, or AKCReunite that work to reunite rightful owners with their pets.

Most importantly, your pet is missing you too. So don’t give up.

Monika Martyn
Monika Martyn is a nomadic minimalist and published author. Her pet portfolio includes experience with over forty cats and dogs, and she becomes their surrogate and a valued pack member. One of her proudest accomplishments is typing while petting a fur baby on her lap. She also excels at dog-speak and cat-talk and is working on mastering fish lingo. Aside from her animal advocacy, she is passionate about the environment, plastic pollution, and living with less (not including chocolate and coffee). She practices yoga and meditation faithfully. She’s experienced living abroad and believes that together people can evoke change for the better. Or at least be kind to one another despite our differences. She has an uncanny knack for remembering people’s names. She’s proud of her two Pushcart Nominations, her debut novel, and her marriage. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. Monika believes that education is the biggest gift to humanity at any age.

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