Dogs become target in thefts

Published 2:00am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It’s not uncommon to hear about thieves stealing computers, cell phones, jewelry and guns. But, one other item is becoming more and more popular for a certain group of thieves.
Dog stealing is becoming a lucrative business for some specialized thieves and owners have little hope of having Fido or Fluffy returned to them if they are stolen.
Renee Jones, director for the Humane Society of Escambia County, said dog theft is not new, but it is growing.
“We’re beginning to hear more and more about owners finding their pets up for sale on Craigslist and other places,” Jones said. “It’s referred to as ‘dog flipping’ and it’s really a growing problem.”
Jones said the thieves have become so in-tune to making money by selling dogs, they even prey on those hoping to find a new home for their pet.
“They will seek out people who are looking for a new home for their pets,” Jones said. “If they see a ‘free-to-a-good-home’ ad, they’ll jump on it. What we’ve seen happen is the dog is then advertised for sale any number of ways. They will post the information and a photo on Craigslist for money. They may repost it under a different name. These people are just looking for a way to make money from selling dogs — even stolen or free ones.”
Jones said a particular group of dogs are being targeted by the thieves — the ones that make the most money.
“In many areas, there are certain breeds that are more popular then others,” Jones said. “Particularly small, pure-bred dogs are popular. They tend to bring the most money when they’re sold. Pit bulls are also popular among certain groups in certain areas, because they get used for something other than being a pet.”
Jones said the economy is partially to blame for the growing “dog flipping” activity across the country.
“It really does happen all the time,” Jones said. “With the current economic situation, people are taking these pure-bred and pit bull dogs from yards to re-sell. They are taking them to flea markets, putting them on social media sites — just about anywhere. They are making people believe they are beloved pets that they have owned for years and that they just want to find them a good home, but they’re charging a re-homing fee for the dog.”
Although not every dog that disappears was stolen, Jones said there are certain precautions that owners should be aware of when considering their pet’s safety.
“A dog that disappears could have just disappeared because they weren’t contained,” Jones said. “A lot of people in the county let their dogs roam freely and don’t have them in a fenced area. We do get calls from people saying their dog has been stolen, when in reality, the dog just left. If a dog is behind a fence and they aren’t known to climb out or dig out, it’s not likely they’ll go missing. But if they aren’t contained, they can either be picked up by anyone in the area or they simply wander off.”
Jones said those who have dogs and live in the country are among pet owners that are targeted in the dog-flipping ring.
“Everyone thinks that because they live in the country in a small, rural area that they are immune from having their pets taken,” Jones said. “That’s exactly what the thieves are looking for — easy targets.”
Even if the animals aren’t resold as pets for new owners, the thieves have other avenues to get paid for the stolen or mis-claimed pets.
“There is another group of people called ‘bunchers’ that get rid of stolen dogs for money, too,” Jones said. “These ‘bunchers’ will go out into rural areas and pick up any dog they can get their hands on. Then, they go and sell them to unscrupulous dealers who sell to research labs.”
Jones said pet owners should take extra precautions — even in the country — to keep their pets contained and safely behind locked gates.
“We don’t want to lose any of our pets to these kinds of people,” Jones said.

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