Monday, June 24, 2024

ANIMALS 101 – PET THEFT IS ON THE RISE

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WHY PET THEFT OCCURS AND HOW WE CAN BETTER PROTECT OUR BELOVED COMPANIONS

Pet theft is a distressing and concerning issue that has been prevalent in society for many years. It involves the unlawful taking or abduction of animals that are considered to be someone’s beloved pets or companion animals. Pet theft causes pain and suffering to both the stolen animals and their loving owners. The motivations behind pet theft are diverse and complex, but several key factors contribute to this unfortunate phenomenon. Understanding the risk of rising pet thefts and how you can minimize the risk.

WHY ARE PETS STOLEN

  • Financial Gain: One of the primary reasons for pet theft is the potential for financial profit. Thieves may steal valuable or purebred pets to sell them to unknowing buyers. Some stolen animals end up in illegal breeding operations, where they are used to produce offspring for profit. Some just sell them on the street because the public tends to buy them to “save” them. They may also be stolen and sold as bait animals.
  • Demand for Specific Breeds: Certain dog breeds, especially those considered rare or trendy, can fetch high prices on the black market. As a result, these breeds become prime targets for thieves seeking to cash in on their desirability.
  • Emotional Value: Pets hold significant emotional value for their owners, and sadly, some individuals steal pets out of malice or to cause emotional distress to the owners. These perpetrators may derive satisfaction from the suffering they cause to both the pet and their human companions.
  • Reselling or Ransom: In some cases, thieves may aim to resell the stolen pets to their rightful owners or demand a ransom from the distraught owners in exchange for their safe return.
  • Dog Fighting, Bait Animals, or Illegal Hunting: Tragically, stolen animals can be used as bait animals in dogfighting rings, where they are pitted against aggressive dogs for training or entertainment. In the context of dogfighting, thieves may steal certain “powerbreeds” dogs to use them in dog fights. Some breeds might be stolen for hunting purposes.
  • Loneliness and Companionship: Some individuals may steal pets due to feelings of loneliness or a desire for companionship. They might believe that taking someone else’s pet will alleviate their emotional emptiness. We also have issues with people finding a lost pet and then just decide to keep them and not go through an adoption process. We consider this theft too.
  • Opportunistic Theft: Pets left unattended in yards, tied outside shops, or in unlocked cars become easy targets for opportunistic thieves.
  • Inadequate Laws and Penalties: Weak laws and lenient penalties for pet theft may not deter criminals from engaging in such activities.
  • Personal Use or Experimentation: In rare cases, pets might be stolen for personal use, even as food or for experimentation purposes, which is an especially alarming prospect.
  • Witches do live among us:  In our very town, there are individuals who would steal cats for offerings. This is one of the many reasons we believe your cat should also be kept safe in your yard and there are ways to do it!
Pet theft
Pet Theft – Image shared by The Paw Company

HOW ARE ANIMALS STOLEN?

Animals can be stolen in various ways, and pet thieves often employ cunning tactics to carry out their crimes. Some common methods of pet theft include:

  • Unattended Pets: Pets left unattended in yards, tied up outside shops, or in parked cars are vulnerable targets for thieves. Sadly, irresponsible owners let their pets roam the streets too. They may quickly snatch the animal and flee the scene before anyone notices.
  • Petnapping: Petnapping involves physically taking a pet from its owner while they are walking the animal or playing in a park. Thieves may use distraction techniques or even threaten the owner to make their escape.
  • Breaking and Entering: In some cases, thieves might break into homes or vehicles to steal pets. This method is riskier for the criminals but may be employed if they believe valuable or specific breeds are inside the property.
  • Fraudulent “Buyers”: Thieves may pose as potential buyers to gain access to pets advertised for sale. Once they have the animal in their possession, they disappear without completing the transaction.
  • Online Scams: The internet provides a platform for thieves to exploit unsuspecting pet owners. They may create fake listings for lost or found pets to lure owners into revealing personal information or arrange meetups where they steal the animals.
  • Dog Walking or Pet Sitting Services: In rare cases, unscrupulous individuals offering pet services may steal animals while in their care.
  • Staged Accidents and Snares: Thieves may stage accidents involving pets to create confusion and chaos, allowing them to take the animal while the owner is distracted. Snares and traps are used to catch cats in fields.
  • Thieves Lure Animals to Them: Pet thieves lure dogs to fences/ walls or gates with food and once they are in reach, they will grab them and pull them over the wall or throw a rope around the dog and pull them over even high walls. They may also use tranquilizers before snatching the animal. A bitch in heat is used to lure a dog out of their property.

Offering rewards for lost pets can unintentionally create an incentive for pet theft, albeit in a limited number of cases. While the primary intention behind offering a reward is to encourage people to actively search for and return the lost pet, it can also attract unscrupulous individuals who see an opportunity to make quick money. Ultimately, while rewards can be a useful tool in finding lost pets, it is essential to use them judiciously and in combination with other methods to increase the likelihood of a safe and honest reunion with your furry companion.

A POISONING RISK IS HIGH WITH HOUSE BREAK-INS – Also read more on pet poisoning and get your poison rescue packs for around R50 at your local shelters.  This can buy a few extra minutes to get your pet to the vet.

pet poisoning

PREVENTING PET THEFT

Preventing pet theft requires a combination of vigilance, responsible pet ownership, and community awareness. Here are some practical tips to help safeguard your beloved animals from potential thieves:

  • Supervise Your Pet: Always keep a close eye on your pet when outside, especially in public places. Avoid leaving them unattended in yards, tied up outside shops, or alone in parked cars.
  • Avoid Unnecessary Trips in the Car:   Do not take your dogs for unnecessary trips in the car. If your vehicle is hijacked your dog will be taken as well.
  • Secure Your Property: Ensure that your home and yard are secure. Use sturdy locks and gates to prevent unauthorized access. Consider installing security cameras to monitor your property. If possible it is even safer for your pets if you ensure that your dogs cannot be lured to the front wall or gate.
  • Microchip and ID Tags: Microchip your pet and keep the contact information associated with the chip up-to-date. Additionally, have visible identification tags on your pet’s collar with your current contact details. I do not encourage putting the pet’s name on the tag because then thieves can call them by name. Microchips and tags can help increase the chances of recovering a stolen animal if they do go missing and proving ownership.
  • Be Cautious with Strangers: Be cautious when dealing with strangers interested in your pet, purchase, or to pet them. We don’t support the selling or giving away of animals, but always meet potential buyers in public places rather than at your home.
  • Avoid Sharing Too Much Online: Be careful about sharing detailed information about your pets on social media or online platforms. Posting specific details about your pet’s location or routines may inadvertently expose them to potential thieves.
  • Spay/Neuter Your Pet: Spaying or neutering your pet can reduce its desirability for thieves looking to breed animals illegally and neutered males will be less likely to wander off. Your spayed female will not attract males and cause them to roam the streets.
  • Training: Teach your pet reliable recall commands so that they come to you when called. This skill can help in situations where your pet may be getting too far from you or is approached by a stranger. Teach them to not take food from just anyone and to be careful of strangers.
  • Be Mindful of Your Surroundings: Pay attention to your surroundings when walking your pet. Stay alert to any suspicious individuals or activities in the area. Do not let young children or older individuals walk pets alone. Don’t be on your phone when walking your pet or listen to music that you can’t hear things happening around you.
  • Join or Start a Neighbourhood Watch: Participate in or create a neighbourhood watch program that includes pet owners. This can foster a sense of community and encourage people to look out for one another’s pets.
  • Report Suspicious Activity: Get to know your neighbours and their pets, if you suspect something seems off, contact your neighbours or report it to the local community watch group.
  • Support Stronger Laws: Advocate for stronger pet theft laws and penalties in your community and country. Engage with local authorities and lawmakers to address this issue effectively.
  • Educate Others: Spread awareness about pet theft and prevention methods among fellow pet owners, friends, and family members.
  • Limit Access by Others: If someone other than your family has access to the gate like a domestic worker, builders, or garden service, then have a stern talk about not leaving the gate open or letting the pets out. I do not leave my animals in such circumstances unless I can trust those individuals.
  • Let Pets Sleep Inside: A survey done under jailed thieves showed that the top deterrents that keep most from breaking in are: CCTV cameras, Detection beams, Electric fences, and most of all, animals that sleep in the house! Not only will they be able to alert you, but you will be able to protect them as many animals get killed, hit, cut, or poisoned during or before these robberies. It is not your pet’s duty to protect you, you must protect them.

By taking these proactive measures and staying cautious, you can reduce the risk of pet theft and increase the chances of reuniting with your pet if they do go missing. Remember, prevention is key to keeping your furry friends safe and secure.

Also, read about compassion fatigue among animal welfare workers.

PET THEFT NOT HIGH ON POLICE PRIORITY LIST

In our country the police for the most part struggle to catch rapists, killers, and house thieves, so there is no way for us to believe that pet theft is high on their priority list. Pet theft is often a low-risk, high-reward crime for perpetrators. The covert nature of the act makes it challenging to gather concrete evidence, leaving law enforcement with few leads to follow. Unlike other crimes that may leave behind clear trails, pet theft can be difficult to trace, especially if the animals are sold through illegal channels, allowed to roam the streets or taken to different jurisdictions.

To address these challenges, law enforcement agencies must recognize the seriousness of pet theft and allocate sufficient resources for investigations. Creating specialized units or task forces dedicated to handling pet theft cases can help streamline efforts and improve outcomes. Additionally, establishing a unified database and reporting system for stolen pets nationwide would enhance information sharing and facilitate the tracking of stolen animals and identifying patterns. Additionally, communities and law enforcement should work together to raise awareness, tighten legislation, and impose stricter penalties on those involved in pet theft to discourage such criminal activities.

IF YOUR PET IS STOLEN

  • If you suspect your pet is stolen, please report it to the nearest SAPS, alert your community and neighbourhood watch.
  • Contact neighbours with cameras to look for possible evidence.
  • Follow our lost and found animal guide.
  • Check lost and found pages from nearby towns as animals may be taken, sold or dumped there.

If you see what appears to be a suspicious sale happening, we advise you follow from a distance and contact your local welfare organizations to advise further steps. If it is safe to do so, take photos as evidence. Don’t just buy the animal and let the thieve be as this incentivizes further theft.

Collaboration with animal welfare organizations, community watch groups, and vigilant citizens can also strengthen the fight against pet theft. Organizations that work to prevent pet theft and reunite lost pets with their owners play a vital role in mitigating the impact of this crime. By supporting these organizations, raising awareness, and advocating for stricter laws, we can collectively strive to protect our beloved pets from falling victim to theft. Engaging the public in reporting suspicious activities and providing relevant information can be instrumental in identifying and catching pet thieves.

pet theft

Ultimately, pet theft is not only a violation of the law but also an assault on the bond between humans and their animal companions. Responsible pet ownership includes the duty of keeping our pets safe and protected. When we bring a pet into our lives, we become their guardians, and it is our responsibility to ensure their well-being and safety. By acknowledging the gravity of this crime and implementing proactive measures, we can work towards a safer environment for our beloved animal companions and bring those responsible for these heartless acts to justice.

Next week we will look at THE LINK between animal abuse and domestic abuse.

WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER!