Dog thefts on the increase

The American Kennel Club has found that pet theft is on the rise. In a seven-month period in 2011, 224 dogs were reported stolen, compared with 150 stolen-pet reports from the same time period the previous year.

The AKC recommends not leaving pets outside unattended, as some dogs get stolen out of their yards, or untied from trees outside of stores in which their owners are shopping. spcaLA's Ana Bustilloz suggested to KABC in Los Angeles that pet owners "buddy up" to prevent these thefts, but we've noticed that pet thieves will target pet stores, too – often sending kids to distract store personnel, or just stuffing puppies down their pants.

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Why the increase in pooch-pinching? The economy is probably at least partly to blame; yoinking a Yorkie from a pet store, then reselling it to a clueless consumer on a street corner or over the internet, can net thieves hundreds (and won't take up much space). Some even call the owners, using the information on the dog tags, and demand a "ransom." Here's how to keep it from happening to you:

Secure your yard – high fences, gates that lock – if the dog spends time outside, and keep an eye on her, especially if she's out front.

Bringing the dog with you on errands? Visit only stores she's allowed to go into with you – or leave her at home. One minute you're chatting with the dry cleaner, the next thing you know Trixie's trotting merrily away with a member of The Resale Gang. Leaving dogs tied up on the sidewalk also invites escape attempts, injuries/fights with other dogs, and/or kids toddling up to them and feeding them human food, which is cute in theory but really bad in practice.

Leaving her in the car is not an option either. Windows rolled up, she'll get way too hot (or cold, depending on the time of year). Windows rolled down, thieves will reach in and take her. The dog goes with you, wherever you go – or she stays home.

Obey your instincts at off-leash hours. If you count more people than dogs at your local dog run, one of the extra folks could be "shopping" for a purebred to lift; as with children, don't get too engrossed in conversation or your Kindle to watch what the dog's doing, or with whom.

Microchip your pets. If your pet does get taken – or takes herself on a little walkabout; it happens – you'll up your chances of getting her back quickly.

Ever fallen victim to a dognapper? Tell us your tail of woe in the comments!

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