JACKI LYDEN, host: There's a disturbing trend in these dog days of summer. Dog theft is on the rise. So far 2011 has seen a 49 percent increase in dognappings. That's according to data gathered by the American Kennel Club. Lisa Peterson is spokesperson for the AKC, and she joins us now from New York City to tell us more about it.
Lisa Peterson, welcome to the show.
LISA PETERSON: Thank you, Jacki.
LYDEN: Well, this is disturbing. Why is there such an increase in dognappings?
PETERSON: Well, the American Kennel Club has been tracking pet theft for several years now. And we believe the increase is due to economic times. You have people who want pets, either purebreds or mixed breeds, but can't afford to purchase them or pay the adoption fee. So we find that they're just taking them for themselves or to give them as gifts. But then on the other hand, you have the criminal element that steals dogs and tries to sell them to unsuspecting buyers.
LYDEN: I think we've all seen various cities outside the coffee shop, bookstore, you name it, somebody goes in, of course, the animals are usually not allowed to come in. and they're tied up out on the street. Is that how pets are getting stolen or are people coming into homes or what?
PETERSON: Actually, all of the above. I'd say the two top ways dogs are being stolen are during home invasions. For example, in Florida there was a home where the criminals took a 55-inch television and also Booboo the Yorkshire terrier and all his belongings.
We also see dogs being taken out of parked cars. You know, you go to run an errand. You leave the dog in the car. You're gone 10 minutes. You come back. The car's been broken into. Maybe the stereo, the GPS and the dog have been stolen.
So it's really a variety of different ways, including being tied up in front of a store. I mean, that makes your dog just extremely vulnerable for pet theft.
LYDEN: You know, there's something so heartbreaking about a dog being stolen. It sort of seems like the ultimate indignity.
PETERSON: You know, dogs thrive on routine and they love their owners. And we love them, too. I mean, they're valued family members. So there's actually two victims to the crime here. There's the owner who's missing their lovable pet, and also the poor dog is suffering perhaps a little anxiety, not knowing what's going on. You know, it can be traumatic for both parties.
LYDEN: I imagine many people are wondering what steps they can take to protect their pets.
PETERSON: Well, the number one step that you can take to protect your pet, especially in recovery to get it back, is to have it permanently identified with a microchip. But, you know, more common sense, close to home things. Don't let your dog off your leash. Don't leave him unattended in your yard. You know, we've seen dogs taken out of backyards certainly. And also be cautious with information that you give to strangers about your dog.
We saw a man in Tulsa, Oklahoma who was approached by a man in a park, asked him about his adorable pit bull puppy, then apparently the criminal followed him home and the next morning broke into the house, tied up the family at gunpoint and stole the puppy.
LYDEN: Wow. Well, we'll hope that by getting the word out this kind of thing decreases.
Lisa Peterson is the spokesperson for the American Kennel Club.
PETERSON: Thank you, Jacki.
LYDEN: This is NPR News.�
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