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JoAnna Lou
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Uptick in N.Y. Dog Theft
Even well identified pets are at risk
Kumiko Masaoka and Michael Reinhardt fortunately got their pup back after he got into the wrong hands.

The recent increase in pet theft has hit close to home as there have been several dog kidnappings in my area this summer.

Some are straightforward, like Matsu, the Yorkshire Terrier who was stolen when he was tied outside of a deli. Others are a little more complicated.

A few weeks ago, Kumiko Masaoka and Michael Reinhardt were at a Brooklyn park with their West Highland Terrier, Winston, when the pup was spooked and ran off. They did all the right things--searched the area, contacted animal shelters and veterinarians, posted flyers, and informed the microchip company.

The next day the couple was put in contact with a girl who found Winston and handed him over to a police officer. Unfortunately, the police officer ended up giving the dog to another family (it's still in dispute whether the family tried to claim Winston or if the police offered him to the family).

Thankfully Winston has since been returned, but this story just goes to show that even a dog with proper identification can easily end up in the wrong hands.

When we lose a pet, our natural inclination is to contact animal shelters and veterinarian offices, but “non-pet people” may not think to go to these places. For many, the police seems like a natural fist resource, as in Winston's case. But police don't typically deal with lost animals, so they may not know the proper protocol, such as checking for a microchip or verifying the identify of someone claiming a pet.

As dog theft increases, it's important for key members of the community, like the police, to get training on how to handle lost and stolen pets. Additionally, it's probably a good idea to check with your local precinct if you're looking for a lost dog.

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

Photo courtesy of Kumiko Masaoka.

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