Pet theft is nothing new. People have come up with sneaky ways to steal animals practically since the beginning of time. The pandemic has brought out the crazy, the devious and the heartless souls that opportunistically prey upon pet owners. These pet thieves have three secret weapons: your ignorance, your unwillingness and your perception.
Most pet parents pride themselves on their love and devotion to their companion pet, but actually often do little to find out the specific needs of the breed in which they have purchased/rescued. If you do not do your due diligence, you could end up with a pet that does not in any way suit your lifestyle. Not knowing what you are getting into contributes to high rates of pets ending up in shelters each year. Most pets enter shelters between the ages of 5 months and 3 years. Those are the early years of life.
A fair amount of research needs to be done to ensure the safety of the family as well as the needs of the pet. Pet owners cannot be fooled into believing that they are doing their pet or the community a great service by purchasing or rescuing a pet. If pet research is not done, a pet owner will not know what best suits the breed of pet they have brought home. Their pet might be prone to trying to get out of the house, if they are scared of the environment, feel the need to run away from the home, traumatized in the environment if it resembles or reminds them of their traumatic past, or want to find what they believe is safety elsewhere.
Aside from pet research that needs to be done, a pet parent must become more aware of their surroundings. Most humans are grievously distracted. Cell phones, stress, anxiety and fear of the everyday worries of life dominate our minds and make it difficult to be present in the moment and pay attention to what is going on around us; if we don’t pay attention, others will.
The average pet owner is loving, caring and tries to do their best for their pet. Some pet owners’ habits, past experiences, and overall way they think about pet ownership, can easily lead to their pet ending up in the hands of people up to no good. An example of this, is a dog owner who insists on walking their dog wearing a very loose collar. A collar should be snug. If a dog becomes frightened, angry, or really curious, they could attempt to get out of the collar. If it is very loose (a collar that can fit more than two fingers under the collar while worn,) the dog will simply slip his head out of the collar. It is difficult to get a motivated dog back to safety. Many owners think that a snug collar hurts their dog, but they ignore the fact that the collar is a safety device and their dog can get out of one much easier than they think.
Something that is seen a lot are dog owners who refuse to walk their dogs on a leash. They don’t see the harm in letting them “have free time.” Well, that free time can easily lead to their dog running off and ending up in the hands of someone who has no intention of returning them. Again and again, pet parents go on a “walk around the neighborhood” and their curious dog wanders off without their consent. A nice stroll around the neighborhood can be done with the added safety of a leash attached to the collar.
Another example is a cat owner who doesn’t think it is necessary to have an ID tag on their cat because their cat is an “indoor cat.” It only takes one time for the door not to be pulled shut all the way or the garage door being up while the groceries are being brought in, and the cat slips out. Making sure the doors are closed during these simple tasks will ensure the family cat does not get out.
Pet owners often call their pets their children and often treat them as such… sort of. You wouldn’t allow your two-year-old to wander loose in your vehicle unrestrained and stick his head out of the window, but you let your dog do it. A parent of a three-year-old would never allow them to walk 30 feet behind them while they themselves were completely distracted, but that circumstance is alright for their dog. A parent of a five-year-old would never take their child to a park, let them just run and play and not watch closely to make sure they are safe. This scenario, however, seems to be perfectly ok for a dog. You also wouldn’t go out to check the mail 50+ feet away from your house with the door open if you had an adventurous 18-month-old crawling around looking for something to do. So, why do we do this with our pets? Our perception of our pets must change in order to keep them safe from thieves. We can teach ourselves to be more alert when we are with our pets so they we do not become targets for thieves.
Dognapping, up 250% since the beginning of the pandemic, and cat abductions have unfortunately become normal. What?!? Normal? How is that? It is true. People are used to posts about lost or stolen pets. With so many distracted people, it has made a common thief’s job easy. Thieves prey on distracted people and some of them do not mind a physical altercation. Here is a short list of the kind of people who are easy to steal from:
- Pet parents who foolishly leave their pets in their vehicle while they (“run in for a minute”)
- Pet parents who go into stores with pets in their purses and even in baskets that are not leashed
- Those who allow their pets to wander free in their vehicle with the windows down
- People who go check their mail or take the garbage out to the curb with the doors open
- Pet parents who walk their dogs with their dog trailing behind them while they are distracted
- Those believing their pets will obey them outside their home and don’t firmly grip on the lead
- Pet owners who walk their dogs off leash
- Those who go jogging with their dog off leash
- Pet owners who do not watch their pets at dog parks or beaches
- Any pet parent who looks like they are not paying attention to their surroundings
Each pet parent can and should take measure to make sure they are engaged and alert. Each family should also consider a plan that teaches each member of the family about pet safety as it pertains to their pets, proper handling, feeding and maintenance.