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What to do if your pet is kidnapped

Each year, the Humane Rescue Alliance reunites more than 850 animals with their families through our pet reunification programs, including animals who have been kidnapped. 
 
In January 2022, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department made an arrest in a case involving a car theft. While we’re not commonly involved in these sorts of cases, MPD alerted us that there had been a chihuahua in the car when it was stolen.
 
The next day, a woman found a frightened chihuahua alone in her yard. When animal control officer Erica Meier arrived on scene, she found a tiny chihuahua wearing a red nylon bow collar cowering in a stairwell. With this description, dispatcher Karen Sweigard went into action – she knew this was the dog from the MPD report. Karen immediately contacted the dog’s owner, Daniel, who rushed to our Oglethorpe facility. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of our field services team and MPD detectives, our customer care team was able to reunite Kira with her dad as soon as possible. 
 
There are ways to keep your pet safe in the unlikely event they are kidnapped that are also critical in ensuring your pet is returned if the unthinkable happens.


Identification: 

  • Make sure that your pet is microchipped and that your contact information on file is up-to-date. 
  • Your pet should always wear a collar and ID tag with your name, phone number, and current address on it.  
  • Take clear photographs of your pet from various angles and update them regularly. Make note of any distinguishing features that could be helpful in identifying your pet.
  • Keep photographs of yourself with your pet, as well as veterinary records and adoption or purchase paperwork to substantiate yourself as the owner.  


Be aware: 

  • Don’t leave your pet anywhere that you would not leave a small child. For example, never leave your dog tied up or unattended outside (even in your own backyard) or alone inside a car.
  • Keep your pet on a leash, and if you let them off leash, practice recall and make sure they are in view at all times. We advise against retractable leashes that can break and provide less control than a standard 6-foot lead. 
  • Always be vigilant of your surroundings and take note of any suspicious behavior.


What to do if your pet is kidnapped:

  • File a report with the police as a theft (rather than a lost animal). While we believe pets are family, in many states, pets are deemed personal property and the police will be a critical resource in your pet's recovery. 
  • Contact local veterinarians, groomers, and animal shelters to report your pet as missing or kidnapped. Include information about where they went missing, their description, updated photos, and any important medical information.
  • If possible, report your pet as missing or kidnapped through your microchip agency. 
  • Harness the power of social media and lost/found websites. Post key information and photos on sites such as Facebook, Nextdoor, Pawboost, and Petco Love Lost. Ask neighbors, family, and friends to share your post with their network. 
  • Reach out to neighbors in the area where your pet went missing to see if they have any surveillance footage that may be helpful in locating your kidnapped pet. 
  • Create flyers or posters using neon-colored paper or poster board to draw attention. Use a clear call-to-action at the top of the poster such as “LOST DOG/CAT” or “PLEASE HELP.” Include brief information about how to contact you and a recent photo of your pet. Weather-proof your posters or flyers by covering them with clear packaging tape or by inserting them into a plastic sheet protector.


While the idea of losing your companion animal through kidnapping is frightening, taking these preventative measures and acting quickly in the event your pet is kidnapped can go a long way in keeping them home safe.

 

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