Generic photo of pets, not specifically associated with this story. (Photo: Thinkstock)
A growing nationwide crime is "pet flipping," in which criminals steal a pet or pick up a lost pet and sell it for profit.
The American Kennel provides the following information to help keep your pet safe.
In the Neighborhood
• Don't let your dog off-leash - Keeping your dog close to you reduces the likelihood it will wander off and catch the attention of thieves.
• Don't leave your dog unattended in your yard - Dogs left outdoors for long periods of time are targets, especially if your fenced-in yard is visible from the street.
• Be Cautious with information - If strangers approach you to admire your dog during walks, don't answer questions about how much the dog cost or give details about where you live.
On the Road
• Never leave your dog in an unattended car, even if it's locked - Besides the obvious health risks this poses to the dog, it's also an invitation for thieves, even if you are gone for only a moment. Leaving expensive items in the car such as a GPS unit or laptop will only encourage break-ins and possibly allow the dog to escape, even if the thieves don't decide to steal it too.
• Don't tie your dog outside a store - This popular practice among city-dwelling dog owners can be a recipe for disaster. If you need to go shopping, patronize only dog-friendly retailers or leave the dog at home.
• Protect your dog with microchip identification - Collars and tags can be removed so make sure you have permanent ID with a microchip. Thieves will not know the dog has a microchip until a veterinarian or shelter worker scans it so
keep contact information current with your microchip recovery service provider. For more information, enroll your pet in a 24-hour recovery service and sign-up at www.akcreunite.org.
• If you suspect your dog has been stolen - Immediately call the police / animal control officer in the area your pet was last seen and file a police report. If your dog has a microchip, ask to have that unique serial number, along with the dog's
description, posted in the "stolen article" category on the National Crime Information Center.
• Canvass the neighborhood - Talk to people in the immediate vicinity where your pet went missing for possible sightings of the actual theft.
• Have fliers with a recent photo ready to go if your dog goes missing - Keep several current photos (profile and headshot) of your dog in your wallet or on an easily accessible web account so that you can distribute immediately if your pet goes missing.
• Contact the media - Call the local TV station, radio station and newspaper and ask to have a web post put out about your missing pet.
DON'T BUY STOLEN PETS
• Don't buy dogs directly off the internet, or at flea markets or from roadside vans -There is simply no way to verify where an animal purchased from any of these outlets came from. Web sites and online classifieds are easily falsified, and with roadside or flea market purchases not only do you not know the pet's origins but you will never be able to find or identify the seller in case of a problem.
• Even newspaper ads may be suspect - Adult dogs offered for sale at reduced prices, for a "relocation" fee, or accompanied by requests for last minute shipping fees are red flags. Dog owners who truly love their animals and are unable to keep them will opt to find a loving home without compensation for re-homing the animal.
• Seek out reputable breeders or rescue groups - Visit the home of the breeder, meet the puppy's mother, and see the litter of puppies. Developing a good relationship with the breeder will bring you peace of mind when purchasing.
Contacting breed rescue groups can also be a safe alternative if you are looking for an adult dog.
• Demand proper papers on your purebred puppy - Ask for the AKC Litter Registration Number and contact AKC customer service at 919-233-9767 to verify registration authenticity of your purebred puppy.