Pet Theft 101: How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes Pet Parents Make

It’s heartbreaking to think about the possibility of your dog being stolen, but unfortunately, common mistakes made by pet parents are leaving their pets vulnerable to theft.

Pet Theft Awareness

Pet theft is real, and sadly over two million pets (and counting) have been stolen in the United States.⁠

As a dog mom, I often wonder why are our pets such a hot ticket for thieves? The answer is simple, MONEY!!!⁠

Dogs are taken to be sold to unsuspecting people, laboratories in need of animals to do testing, dog fighting rings, to be used for puppy mills or to scam the people they took the dog from to collect any monetary reward offered or for ransom.⁠

A sad fact, only about 10% of pets are recovered and returned to their families.

In honor of National Pet Theft Awareness Day (February 14), in this blog post you will read about the common mistakes dog parents often make that can get their dog stolen and how to prevent thieves from stealing your dog.

This blog is about three common mistakes dog parents make that can get their dog stolen.

Pet Theft Awareness

Mistake #1: Leaving Your Dog Tied Up Outside or in The Car to Run Inside the Store “Really Quick”.

Dog waiting outside for owner

Someone ties their dog outside the store or leaves their pup in the car to run inside the store really quick to buy something. They come back, and their pup is gone.

What do they always say? “I was only gone for five minutes.”

Let’s be honest here; it’s never just five minutes because you’re never timing yourself.

Truthfully most of the time, you’re gone for much longer because something potentially holds you up. The person in front of you is taking longer, something isn’t working right with the register, etc.

All this time you’ve left your pup alone has given a dog napper ample time to come and take your dog.

Think about how easy it is for a dog thief to walk up, untie the leash or detach the leash from your dog’s collar or harness and attach it to a new one.

More often than not, people outside aren’t really paying attention to who the dog’s owner is, so most aren’t going to think twice about someone approaching a dog and walking away with them.

Dog waiting in car for owner

Your car might take a minute or two extra to get in, but that still isn’t a better option to prevent pet theft for your pup.

A couple of years ago here in Hawaii, someone left their dogs in their vehicle while the person went inside the grocery store. This person came back, and not only was this person’s car gone but so were the two dogs inside the vehicle.

If you’re going to run errands to places that do not allow pets to accompany you, no matter how quick you think you’re going to be, the safest option is just to leave them at home, secured inside.

Don’t want to leave them at home? Then do yourself a favor and have a friend or family member come with you who can watch your dog when you step inside the store or need to step out of the car.

Remember, there’s always safety in numbers and leaving your dog alone is too high of a risk to take.

Mistake #2: Being Distracted and Not Paying Attention to Where Your Dog Is.

Dog owner not paying attention to dog in store

You’re at the local off-leash dog park, a pet store, a beach, or a doggie cafe where your pup is running around with his furry friends.

You’re distracted by texting, socializing with your fellow dog parents, looking at retail items, or catching up on social media.

You look around, and your dog is nowhere to be found.

You just took your eyes off of them for a second, right?

WRONG!!! Once again, let’s face it, you took the eye off the prize (your dog) and were NOT paying attention.

Dog parks, beaches, stores, or locations where dogs are permitted to run around off-leash are prime target areas for dog snatchers.

The truth is that dog thieves are watching you and other dog parents to see who is paying attention to their pups.

They’re waiting for that one golden opportunity where they can swoop in and take your dog.

Dognapper taking dog

I’m a helicopter dog mom and not ashamed to admit it.

If someone texts me, I’ll either tell them I can’t text at that moment, and I’ll get back to them later, or I have my pup sitting right in front of me or in between my feet, where I can easily see (out of my peripheral vision) someone come up to us.

Pay attention to your surroundings and where your dog is AT ALL TIMES.

If you go to the same off-leash dog parks or off-leash dog venues, get to know the regular dog parents who go and take notice of which human belongs to which dog.

Notice anyone who looks out of place? Someone there with a leash but no dog? Then sound the alarm and let others know to take notice too.

If local law enforcement is close by, go tell them.

Being vigilant can be the difference between having your dog snatched or stopping pet theft from happening in the first place.

Remember we’re trying to prevent pet theft, not give dog nappers an open invitation.

Mistake #3: Leaving Your Dog Unattended in Your Yard.

Dog unattended in yard

Think having your dog playing in the front yard or backyard without anyone outside with them is safe? Negative Ghost Rider.

Dogs get snatched all the time from their yards. Why? It’s simple, the yard isn’t secured.

Sit back and think how easy it is to approach your front door, for example. How freely can someone gain access to your property?

Is it easy for some to just walk on up, unlock or reach over your gate to get to your dog? This is really important if you live in a high traffic area where many people are walking or driving by.

Yes, your home is supposed to be a sanctuary and your safe place, but sadly bad things happen at home. Just like everything else, keep an eye on your dog and be vigilant of your surroundings to prevent pet theft from occurring while you’re home.

Thief trying to lure dog away with a treat

Take a break from what you’re doing and go outside with your dog. Look around and pay attention to who is walking by or cars parked nearby.

If you have a gate door with a lock, ensure it’s secure.

Have a security camera? Make sure it’s in working order, and you can see your property clearly.

If you see someone you’re not familiar with approaching your yard, call your dog to you until the person passes by or states their business on why they’re there.

Be cautious just letting random people approach your dog in your yard to pet them.

If you’re inside and hear your dog barking, rush to see what the commotion is all about.

Don’t just yell at your dog to calm down or be quiet because they are barking and making noise for a reason.

Your dog can’t yell STRANGER DANGER, but they can and will bark to alert you that something is happening.

Pet Theft is Against the Law…Only in Some States

Stolen Dog Laws


It’s hard to imagine in this day and age but only 15 states have laws regarding pet theft.

Spoiler Alert: Hawai’i is NOT one of them.

Even if we, as dog parents, see our pets as family members, that is not the case under the law, which leaving dog nappers being charged with a misdemeanor and a fine with possibly minimal jail time (if any).

Pet theft is still going strong today and seems to be only rising as years go by, so it’s essential to avoid doing everything possible in becoming a statistic and putting our dogs at risk.

This post is not meant to scare you or feel like you can’t leave your dog anywhere, but raise awareness about the risks of pet theft, educate on steps to take steps to prevent pet theft, and the importance of practicing dog safety.

After reading this post, you now have learned mistakes dog owners often make that puts their dogs at risk for being stolen and steps to take to keep your dogs safe and preventing pet theft.

This blog was about three mistakes dog owners can be making that can get their dog stolen.

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