Dognapping is an increasing crime problem nationwide, reports the Baltimore Sun. “With the economy the way it is, a lot of people are in a bad way, and we’re seeing more dogs get stolen for all kinds of reasons,” says Anne Wills, who runs a nonprofit that uses trained search dogs to locate missing pets. The American Kennel Club, which maintains a national database of dog thefts, says its a nationwide trend. The New York-based group reports that the number of reported thefts more than doubled between 2009 and 2011, rising from 162 to 432 over those years.
“And those numbers are just scratching the surface,” says Lisa Peterson, an AKC spokeswoman. The organization bases its figures on media reports of stolen dogs and customers who call its Companion Animal Recovery service. Wills says animal thieves have many motivations. Many steal dogs to sell, ransom, breed, or give away. Individuals tied to dog fighting are always on the lookout for large, muscular canines they can train for bouts — or weaker ones as “bait” on which the fighters can learn to maim or kill. “These people want to keep their fighting dogs in shape and they’re looking to grab little dogs that can’t fight back,” says Darlene Harris, the former manager of the Baltimore City shelter. “It’s horrific.”