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JoAnna Lou
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Making Pet Theft A Felony
Lawmakers consider the serious offense of dognapping
The AKC warns that tying up dogs in front of shops and restaurants makes them vulnerable to dognappers.

Two years ago, the American Kennel Club (AKC) began tracking pet theft after noticing an increase in dognapping complaints. Last year the AKC tracked more than 115 missing pets, up from 71 in 2008. 

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center tracks stolen property nationwide and currently lists 200 stolen dogs in their database. Animals listed are required to have a permanent owner-applied serial number, such as a microchip or tattoo, so this number only accounts for a fraction of the actual stolen pets.

Unfortunately, as dognapping numbers are on the rise, it’s common for pet thieves to walk away with a mere misdemeanor for possession of stolen property. Some states are now aiming to make stealing a beloved pet a serious offense.

After Siberian Husky Laika was stolen in New York Assemblyman, Joseph Lentol’s, Brooklyn district, Lentol decided to draft legislation to make the theft of a companion animal a felony offense with up to four years in jail. The value of such a law may seem clear to pet lovers, but it hasn’t been easy getting animal theft legislature passed.

Last year, a bill was introduced in Texas that would have upgraded pet theft from a misdemeanor to a state felony with jail time. The proposal died in committee, but will be reintroduced next session. I hope more lawmakers will consider supporting similar legislature. In my mind, there’s no way stealing a living, breathing animal should carry the same punishment as stealing an inanimate object.

Microchipping is just one of the ways that you can help ensure your pet’s safety. Check out the AKC’s appearance on Good Morning America for tips on preventing dog theft. 

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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