Dogs are Becoming a More and More Important Part of Our Families, But Does that Make Them More Vulnerable to Theft?
The treatment of the family dog has dramatically improved in North America over the past few decades. The incidence of dog abuse is lower, and we’re less likely to keep dogs outside during long harsh winters than we were in the days of our parents or our grandparents. Sure, the generations that preceded us may have owned dogs, but, on the average, they did not treat them with the same high level of compassion and consideration with which we tend to treat our dogs today.
Our compassion for dogs has even extended to rescue efforts. More people are actively adopting dogs these days than ever in the history of animal shelters. There are societal pushes for responsible breeding and for standardized spaying and neutering programs. There are fewer stray dog populations now than in previous decades, and the need for the iconic town dog catcher has been reduced to almost nil.
This new, more responsible, more compassionate treatment of dog is a commendable and welcome change. However, it seems to also have a disturbing side effect that had the ability not only to affect a greater number of us, but to affect a greater number of us more profoundly.
In recent decades, as the treatment and perceived family perception of dogs has improved, so has the rate at which dogs are being reported stolen. According to the ASPCA, around 15 percent of all dogs are reported missing every year. In this article, we take a look at some of the common reasons for the increase in national dog theft rates.
The Rising Cost of Dogs
Nearly gone are the days in which puppies came cheaply and easily. More responsible breeding practices and an increased interest in keeping dogs indoors has led to a decrease in the number of “surplus” dogs available. There was a time when you couldn’t drive down most country roads without seeing a sign advertising puppies for sale; now it is hard to get ahold of someone advertising them before the puppies have all been sold. According to the website PetMD, the average initial cost for adopting some breeds of dogs has now risen to over $1500. In short, the demand for dogs has risen.
Simple economics dictates that as the demand for a product or service arises, so does the cost of that product or service. Whether or not we now treat them more as living beings than we perhaps have in the past, dogs are still bought and sold as property, and this means that they are still subject to the laws of economics.
As the supply of dogs has decreased, the demand for dogs has increased, and the cost of dogs has predictably risen. This higher value, in turn, has naturally made dogs a bigger target for theft. Stolen dogs can be sold to the highest bidder, who is still paying less than they would presumably have to pay on the legitimate market.
The Rise in Demand for Designer Dog Breeds
Along with the rise in the cost of dogs in general, the cost of designer breeds of dogs has risen as well. In fact, it has risen at a disproportionate rate. Some popular breeds are even being bred to create relatively popular (and thus more expensive) hybrid breeds. This trend has created an increase in demand in specific types and breeds of dogs, broadening the scope of the types of dogs fo which people are willing to pay significant amounts.
The internet and the mobility of the information age have not only made it easier to find and contact breeders of designer dogs, but it has also been an effective vehicle for popularizing them. Cute pet videos are all the rage these days, and the internet is flooded with them. This drives up sales demand for recognizable dog breeds, and that increases the incentive for dog theft.
We Treat Dogs More Like Family Members Now
Our increased sensitivity toward and inclusion of dogs in our families has helped us to feel closer to them, even to the extent that we would care for a human family member. While this dynamic may have existed in exceptional families decades ago, it certainly wasn’t as common as it is currently.
Today, people dress their pets, they buy them furniture, they pay for expensive medical procedures, and they struggle with mourning their deaths. It only makes sense, then, that people are also willing to pay larger rewards more often for dogs that are returned after having been lost. This makes theft of a dog even more desirable to the criminal because they get the money, and they walk away without the owners suspecting the person stole the dog in the first place.
We Don’t Keep Dogs Outside as Much Anymore
We would think that keeping dogs inside would keep them safer from theft than keeping them outside, and to some extent that is true. However, it can also have the opposite effect. Dogs who spend less time outside are less familiar with their immediate areas outside of the home, and they are therefore less sure how to act or where to go if they do accidentally get outside unattended.
Dogs who are not familiar with being outside on their own can get confused and can easily get lost wandering around. Lost dogs are often relatively easy to spot and are sometimes anxious to find human help, making them easy targets for people willing to steal them. Some lost dogs may be returned to their rightful owners out of kindness or for a reward, but a greedy stranger may instead end up keeping the dog or selling it for profit.
We Teach Our Dogs to Be More Generally Friendly Now
Because more people want dogs to serve as “friendly companions” rather than “guard dogs” now, we’ve taken to breeding ferocity out of dogs. Dog owners are currently less interested in a dog that has the potential to bite than in a dog that’s friendly and tolerant, even with strangers.
As such, most family dogs are more approachable now than they have been in decades past when they may have been less comfortable with unknown people and were more encouraged to actively guard houses and property.
This general increased friendliness in dogs has increased the ease with which a stranger can handle a strange dog, and has also increased their confidence in doing so. As such, a ill-intentioned stranger may now be less reluctant to approach your dog and lead it off without your knowledge.