Dog Thefts in Western Canada

Theft of dogs is a very real problem. While many people are quick to assume a dog may have just wandered off or gotten injured by a vehicle or attacked by a predator, dog thieves do exist and their numbers seem to be growing. Dog theft is fueled by many factors; resale, private use, and even dog fighting rings have been proven to exist. Dog thieves have been caught on video surveillance such as the case in Blackfalds, Alberta where a vehicle is recorded in front of a house, two dogs approached the vehicle, a person’s feet can be seen stepping out and quickly back into the car and only one dog returns after the car has pulled away.

There are also many cases of suspicious vehicles witnessed around the time a dog has disappeared, with neighbours reporting the same vehicle lurking around while the homeowner is away, as was the case with Ryder when a farmer saw the same suspicious unknown vehicle three times the day Ryder went missing. Back in April, a Nipawin, SK resident had his dog stolen. The dog’s theft was witnessed and a description of the vehicle and driver were obtained, though the thief was never apprehended,  his dog was later found in Melfort, SK, an hour away.

 

Social media has fueled the theory of dog fighting rings, however the motivation for these thieves are more likely monetary, simply because it is too easy to anonymously sell a dog on the internet. While dog fighting rings have been shut down in the US, and there are many claims of them existing in Canada, particularly in Alberta. RCMP state that too often the claims go unproven, prompting some people to write them off as urban myths. But they have been proven to exist, such as in this case near Tilbury, Ontario in October of 2015.

Dogs for Resale

Thieves steal dogs for a variety of reasons, sometimes to keep for themselves but, more commonly, dogs are stolen to resell, particularly purebred dogs and those that look purebred. Purebred show stock can easily range in value from $2,000 to $10,000 or even more. Even “pet stock” purebreds can easily bring $1,000 each on classified ad sites such as Kijiji and Craigslist.

In addition to that, the popularity of the modern “Designer Dogs”, (cross bred dogs from two purebred parents of different breeds), has opened up the market for dogs of unknown lineage to be sold as specialty breeds. Many of these breeds are well known such as the Labradoodle (Labrador Retreiver X Poodle) or the Bugg (Boston Terrier X Pug). Like the purebred breeds these crosses are derived from, they can also bring high prices and buyers don’t expect registration papers making it easier to sell them.

Many prudent breeders take many measures to ensure quality homes for the pups they breed. They work hard to establish themselves as conscious, responsible breeders whose goal it is to  maintain the integrity of their breeds by being selective about the animals they produce and taking steps to prevent the irresponsible practice of over breeding solely for money with no regard for the future of the breed nor the consequences that are faced by the uncountable number of unwanted animals.

Despite their efforts, a “black market” of supposedly purebred and designer dogs has thrived. This market is fueled by a huge number of buyers that willingly buy dogs, no questions asked, for what are in essence discounted prices. The sellers are smooth talkers with all kinds of stories as to why they cannot produce the dogs registration papers, or even claiming the dog is from purebred parents but was never registered. A buyer desperate to buy a purebred that would normally cost $1,500 to $2,000 will often jump at the chance to purchase one for $800. They will claim they don’t care about papers because they don’t plan to show.

This market is commonly supplied by puppy mills and amateur breeders, however the demand exceeds the supply, and this is where the thieves come in. People can easily accept that a thief will break into your car and steal a few items, which they will sell for $20 for some quick cash, pocket change, yet to pull over and pick up a friendly dog they can make more money in a day than in a week of petty thefts.

What can be done to prevent thefts of dogs?

There are things that both current and prospective dog owners can do to work together to make it harder for these thieves to resell the animals they steal.

Microchips & Tattoos – According to the Code of Practice for CKC Member Breeders, all Canadian Kennel Clubs members that sell purebred dogs must microchip or tattoo the puppies they sell prior to leaving their premises. Owners of non-CKC registered animals can contact their vet to arrange their dog have a microchip implanted. The chips can be read by anyone with a reader and the original owner can be traced if your dog is found. If you are buying a dog it is vital to get them checked for a microchip.

Paperwork & Verification – CKC member breeders must also provide their buyers with a written agreement, “Breeders shall provide a written sales agreement containing the name of the purchaser, the date of sale, a statement confirming that the dog is purebred, the name of the breed and the dog’s unique identification number.In addition, all terms and conditions of the sale, including a return or replacement policy, shall be clearly defined.The agreement shall be properly dated and signed by all parties.” excerpt from CKC Selling Practices.

Buyers – If you are viewing a dog that is stated to be a purebred, the seller is required to produce the dogs registration papers. Buyers should familiarize themselves with the standards for CKC member kennels and be suspicious of a seller not following those procedures. As a buyer, the most prudent thing you can do is request to take the dog for a veterinary exam and be checked for a microchip prior to handing over any money. Offer to pay for the exam and accompany the seller to the vet’s. Do not accept assurances that was already done. If the seller is legitimate, they should have no objections. If the seller refuses, you have cause for concern and should record all information you can about the seller, their address, take a picture of the dog as well as screen shot any online ads or conversations with them. If you choose to purchase the dog, take it immediately to have it scanned for a microchip and for a health checkup. Don’t be afraid to contact the RCMP if you feel the person may be selling a stolen dog (refusal to allow a microchip scan would be enough reason for me).

Owners who’ve lost a dog – If you have reason to believe your dog was stolen, report the loss of your dog to the RCMP or local police, also to your animal control officer and those in neighbouring communities. Contact vet clinics, animal shelters and animal rescue groups both locally and in outreaching areas. When providing information about your missing dog on social media, ensure you provide as much detail as possible. Many people make the mistake of not including specifically where the dog went missing from (town and province) because they think that people outside their area will not pay attention. Having your location on there is vital. Even if your dog has been taken away from the area, your post may draw clues from local people who may have witnessed something that will help the RCMP. It will also help to draw out others in your area that may not have thought their dog could have been stolen when it disappeared.  When Shilo was stolen, her owner Karen Miller spread the word quite quickly and having her location included resulted in reports of a suspicious truck that had pulled over and was throwing meat at some dogs in the neighbouring town of Bjorkdale, SK. This not only provided the RCMP with a lead to follow, but raised awareness among local residents, potentially scaring off these potential thieves.