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Dognapping Is On the Rise; Avoiding Dog Theft

By Christy True
published: February 25, 2022 - updated: April 21, 2022 • 4 min. read
French bulldog

Key Takeaways

  • Dog theft is on the rise and brazen thieves are employing new tactics, including violence, to grab four-legged family members.
  • Purebreds, especially small dogs such as Boston terriers, Pomeranian, Maltese, and French bulldogs, are most at risk.
Dognapping is on the rise
Dognapping is on the rise.

Many people heard about the dramatic incident a year ago when violent thugs shot Lady Gaga’s dog walker in the chest and stole two of her French bulldogs, Koji and Gustav.

The story had a relatively happy ending for the dogs – they were turned into police two days later after Lady Gaga offered a $500,000 reward. But the dog walker, Ryan Fischer, faced a long recovery and had a portion of his lung removed. It’s likely he will never completely heal from the emotional trauma.

Sadly, this incident was not isolated, and police and pet groups say that dognapping is on the rise. Pet parents should be aware of this disturbing trend and take precautions to ensure it doesn’t happen to them.

See our tips for preventing pet theft here

Experts say this particularly heinous crime may be increasing because the pandemic created more demand for pets, and purebred dogs are harder to find now. A general rise in violent crime over the past two years may also be to blame.

Consider these cases, just in the past month:

  • A man in Virginia broke into a pet grooming salon and stole six 2-week-old Husky puppies. The incident was caught on video and police arrested him. Three of the puppies were returned, but the other three, who were too young to survive on their own, were unaccounted for. A purebred Husky puppy sells for $1,200, but he had sold one for just $100.
  • A woman was sitting at a bar in Fort Lauderdale with her French bulldog Georgie. The dog was off-leash, but she kept a close eye on him. She saw a woman dressed in a black hoodie slide open the door from an adjoining restaurant, snatch Georgie and run off. She got a tip from someone responding to her Facebook post, and the thief was caught walking the dog.
  •  A string of dognappings in the San Francisco area have been reported, some at gunpoint, just since the start of this year.

As you can see from these incidents, it’s not just a pup who gets loose or a dog tied up in front of a store who is at-risk. Brazen thieves are increasingly committing break-ins or violence to take dogs from their pet parents. In one case, the criminals went so far as to drive around in a truck posing as animal control officers to nab dogs.

dog tied up
Leaving your dog unattended could invite trouble.

Dog theft is not treated as a serious crime

While it’s incredibly distressing for the pet parent, the punishment doesn’t usually fit the crime. Dogs are considered property, so stealing a dog from the owners doesn’t lead to a kidnapping charge. Instead, the crime would be usually considered theft or grand theft, depending on the canine’s monetary value and the laws in that state.

And it’s likely to be a low priority for law enforcement. A dog thief who gets caught would probably only receive a fine. Pet parents may have to do their own leg work to try to recover a pet, by hiring an investigator or spreading the word on social media, as the victim in Fort Lauderdale did.

“The risk for criminals to go up and steal somebody’s dog off their property is so low that it’s just profitable,” said pet detective Karin TarQwyn. “You will have more luck if somebody stole a stereo out of your car than if they stole your dog out of your backyard.”

These dastardly thieves are usually motivated by money – they may ask for ransom, but more likely, they will try to sell your dog for a quick profit. Best case scenario, the purchaser gives the dog a good home; worst case, the dog may be abused or used for breeding or dogfighting.


What dog breeds are most commonly stolen?

As a general rule, a purebred dog will be the most sought-after dognapping target for a thief because they are easy to resell.

The most frequently stolen breeds are Yorkshire and Boston terriers, Pomeranian, Maltese, French bulldog, and Chihuahua. Labradoodle, pitbull terrier, German shepherd, and Labrador retrievers are also prone to dognapping.

Thieves will also target a friendly or docile dog more, as they won’t give their captors any trouble when they grab them.

What you can do to help end dognapping

Besides protecting your pet, help the pet-loving community by watching for suspicious activity and reporting it immediately to the authorities.

And if you happen to be looking to adopt or buy a pet online, look for signs a dog may have been stolen. If the seller doesn’t provide a good reason for selling the pet, that’s a red flag.

“If you’re buying a pet from a classified ad or from an unknown seller and you suspect this may be a stolen pet, stay in touch with the seller and contact your local law enforcement immediately,” says Abbie Moore, Chief Operating Officer with “You can also check for lost pet ads that match the pet’s description. You’ll potentially be saving someone a big broken heart.”

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 21 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and right now, Tomas, a Mexican street dog rescue, is staring at her because he wants a walk. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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