Pet owners warned to beware of animal thieves amid greater demand

Increased demand for pets during the COVID-19 pandemic is creating opportunities for thieves to profit, making it more important than ever for pet owners to protect their four-legged loved ones, a Claremont-based pet adoption service said.

"As reports of violent pet theft rise around the nation, it's important for pet owners to be vigilant,'' said Abbie Moore, chief operating officer for "At the same time, we call on online classified sites to up their screening game when accepting posts of pets for sale. Pet owners need powerful allies in this fight to protect their pets.''

The nonprofit group, which helps around 19,000 animal shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups and pet adoption agencies advertise their purebred and mixed breed pets for free, says supply has fallen in many parts of the country, as Americans are desperate for animal companionship during COVID-related lockdowns.

"Thieves are taking brazen action to steal dogs, not just from backyards but also from people who are out walking their dogs. And those dogs are then being sold, sometimes on street corners, but sometimes on classified sites,'' the group says.

This was illustrated in last month's high-profile case in which thieves targeted French bulldogs belonging to pop star Lady Gaga. Two men shot the singer's dog walker in Hollywood and made off with two of her three bulldogs. The dog walker is expected to recover, and the dogs were later returned unharmed, but the suspects are still at large.

RELATED: Lady Gaga's two stolen French bulldogs safely reunited with singer's representatives

Among the preventive measures recommended by

-- Never leave pets unattended in yards or tied up outside store.

-- Be careful posting photos of pets on social media. Thieves are on the lookout for dogs and your social media posts may also gives clues to your location and daily habits.

-- Be alert when walking. Pay attention to your surroundings. Thieves prey on people who are distracted by their phones.

-- If you can, pair up with other pet owners in your neighborhood for socially distanced walks.

-- Make sure microchips are registered and have up-to-date contact information.

-- Consider taking an online self-defense class.

"If you're buying a pet from a classified ad or from an unknown seller and you suspect this may be a stolen pet, stay in touch with the seller and contact your local law enforcement immediately,'' Moore said. "You can also check for lost pet ads that match the pet's description. You'll potentially be saving someone a big broken heart.''

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