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Dog Theft ChartWhen a family from Monroe, Wash., returned home from vacation in 2011, they were heartbroken to learn that their 3-month-old puppy had run away. Police later discovered that the story was more complicated: The 17-year-old girl who was hired to watch the pooch had stolen it and sold the puppy on Craigslist for $200, according to media reports.

Similar stories on “dog flipping” have been reported elsewhere, such as in Georgia and Indiana, which underscore data from the American Kennel Club (AKC) showing that dog thefts are on the rise, increasing 27.8% between January and May on a year-over-year basis.

The thieves can be bold. Indeed, someone stole three purebred German shepherds valued at $2,500 each in May from a kennel in Hawaii.

AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson, in an email to MSN moneyNOW said the AKC’s Companion Animal Recovery National Pet Theft Database shows “pet theft has consistently been on the rise over the past five years, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.”

These reports should prompt pet owners to take extra precautions such as “microchipping” their furry friends so that their owners’ addresses can be determined if their pets get lost or stolen. Without these records, reuniting pets and their owners can be difficult.

Pet theft reports surge in the summertime in places such as New York City as “pet parents” run errands and walk their pets at the same time to take advantage of the nice weather.

Unfortunately, catching the thieves can be difficult.Dog Theft Puppy

“Most often dogs are taken from one area and sold far away so there will be no connection,” according to A Helping Paw, which operates a shelter in Massachusetts. “Dogs are even being stolen from pet stores and animal shelters.”

Thieves are especially interested in purebred and smaller dogs, which are easy to transport, that they can sell for quick cash. According to the AKC, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Labrador retrievers and French bulldogs are popular with thieves. Pit bulls are the most-stolen dogs so far this year.

Some evidence indicates that stolen dogs can wind up being used as “bait” in dog fighting rings. Some are even held for ransom. Sadly, this is a worldwide problem and has been reported in the U.K. and Canada among other places.

Using common sense may also help thwart would-be thieves. The ASPCA encourages pet owners to leave their furry friends at home unless the owners are going to “pet-friendly” businesses and to keep a close eye on their pet when it’s off the leash. Also, be suspicious of strangers who say they admire your dog but pepper you with questions about how much it costs and where you live.

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