Dognapping

Dognapping -- or, at least, the fear of dognapping -- is on the rise. So people are no longer leaving their dogs tied up outside stores, and are buying leashes that can't be easily cut through.

Posted on January 20, 2009 at 5:47 AM • 39 Comments

Comments

BeauregardJanuary 20, 2009 7:31 AM

Where I was raised, a dog is only *like* a member of the family. If you kidnap my dog, you're keeping him.

GweihirJanuary 20, 2009 7:57 AM

If I read the article right, this is completely baseless hysterics on the side of the dog owners.

BrianJanuary 20, 2009 8:01 AM

Sorry my fault. I just launched a new line of super deluxe unbreakable dog leashes and they weren't selling. I figured this little rumor would help.

NickJanuary 20, 2009 8:02 AM

I think I heard on NPR about a rash of dog thefts from pet stores. Apparently the little yappy ones make good accessories and can sell for as much as a stylish purse.

Next on Schneier on Security, a proposal for a secure protocol to authenticate dog pedigrees.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 20, 2009 8:19 AM

It can be quite lucrative to dog/cat nap either to ransom or sell on, in the UK some breeds will change hands for the equivalent of a 1000USD no questions asked.

This is about as easy a crime to commit as any and it is very easy to pass on the proceads at a very good % of real value and the risks even when caught are very low.

The problem for the owner especialy those that regard their dog/cat as part of the family is that in a lot of places in the world is that household pets are seen at best as low value property.

This has the side effect that as a crime the penalties are low as is the investigatory effort LEO's will put into a case of pet napping.

Even "chipping" your pet is not that effective as they generely only get checked on strays or where there is some question of ownership.

Even then the chips are not that difficult to remove if you know what you are doing. And can also be disabled/broken without much difficulty.

PeteJanuary 20, 2009 8:22 AM

@Paul Renault re chows
It varies by the individual dog. I've known chows that were quite well-behaved around strangers. However, most are not.

AzeJanuary 20, 2009 8:37 AM

Yes, uncuttable leashes are a great solution, but; let's imagine one day you're walking down the street, when a criminal throws a 2 1/3 pound steak in front of your dog just at the moment the local garbage truck picks up a can of garbage next to him. The leash gets trapped and both you and the dog get lifted inside where you are crushed to death. Nobody can cut the leash to rescue you. The garbage men will be too stunned to press the stop button.

So; I'm selling explosive powered expanding steel rods which will block most garbage trucks. You put it on your back in a backpack and when you pull a handle on your shoulder they expand out in three directions at almost the speed of sound and block the crusher. Who wants to buy one? Only 500 dollars a shot. This system has worked every single time a person wearing such a pack has been dragged inside a garbage truck by their dog leash.

EricJanuary 20, 2009 9:07 AM

While the hostage/ransom part seems a bit strange, it certainly can happen - my parents' dog was taken from their backyard. While you might say "runaway dog," he was found several miles away in another development locked in a sump, an unlikely place for a dog to run away to. They had to call the town offices to come unlock the gate to get him out. For their part, my parents at least didn't panic afterwards - they just put a lock on the backyard gate.

AndrewJanuary 20, 2009 9:30 AM

A friend of mine does sales for Zoombak, a GPS system for pets. Similar products can be embedded in the pup's skin. (Zoombak attaches to a collar, so unless the perp were superdumb, it wouldn't be as effective.)

Andre LePlumeJanuary 20, 2009 9:48 AM

Many dogs have a subcutaneous RFID chip. It won't help you find Fido, but depending on how ignorant the criminal is, it may help you establish ownership.

(And yes, this is yet another case of urban hysteria)

FakeoutJanuary 20, 2009 10:39 AM

Maybe the rumors were started by someone who was sick of yappy little dogs running around and not on leashes.

marcJanuary 20, 2009 10:52 AM

Dear all: All though this seems like an over-reaction, I know for a fact that such dog-nappings were quite prevalent in NYC. Just in my dog run alone, I know of 2 dogs which were stolen and found dead with signs of dog fights. People were using the dogs to teach their fighting dogs how to kill. Another, was taken by a mentally unstable women and eventually found a day later.

So yes, this may be an over-reaction, however, it is FAR more prevalent than kid-napping. And to many of us, dogs are as part of our family as kids.

KevinJanuary 20, 2009 11:06 AM

Chicago has seen a growing number of dog thefts over the last couple of years. While this is usually attributed to dog fighting, the primary motive is resale -- to dog fighters, as pets, etc.

Having a microchip implanted (assuming you actually register the chip in a database, usually an additional fee) makes it much more likely you will recover your dog, and provides positive proof of ownership if there is any dispute.

There are several competing microchip vendors in the USA, with multiple incompatible standards. One of the most popular chips in the USA is on a different frequency from the European standard, so if you bring your dog to Europe it must be chipped, if the existing chip is not compatble, you'd need to pay for a second implant.

JessJanuary 20, 2009 11:50 AM

All cyclists who have had to deal with unleashed dogs strongly support these rumors... err, deplore this massive crime wave.

Davi OttenheimerJanuary 20, 2009 12:34 PM

Heh, this pretty much sums it up:

"There are no reliable statistics about dog thefts, either citywide or nationwide, but a couple of years ago Lisa Peterson, of the American Kennel Club, took it upon herself to begin monitoring what she saw as a disturbing trend."

No reliable data...and suddenly a trend was noticed.

In related news, cat napping has continued successfully without cause for alarm. In fact, I'm off to a cat nap right now.

neon swanJanuary 20, 2009 2:01 PM

How is treating a pet as part of one's family "sick"? And why should such pet owners never reproduce? I would think that most people would want their children to grow up learning respect and compassion for animals, instead of seeing them as mere property to be discarded at the first instance of inconvenience.

That said, New York-based magazine "writers" are notorious for "discovering" trends, which turn out to occur entirely among their cohort--other upper-middle-class women who have nannies and too much time on their hands.

RSaundersJanuary 20, 2009 2:55 PM

Next thing you know the Society in Dedham for Apprehending Horse Thieves will have a NYC branch for dogs. The SiDfAHT doesn't really hunt rustlers, but they have a nice charity dinner every year. The NY folks would like that.

ModeratorJanuary 20, 2009 3:57 PM

Everyone posting obnoxious comments to rile up dog lovers, or sharing your incredibly important opinions about exactly how much emotional attachment people should have to their pets: knock it off, now. I'm out of patience with this thread and may start banning people without warning.

anemoJanuary 20, 2009 4:51 PM

I know that the "oh the hysteria" perspective is a favourite on this blog, and it certainly is healthy to inject some skepticism into the public discussion. However, I personally know two people who've had their dogs stolen while tied in front of stores in Toronto, Canada. Luckily in both these cases the dogs were returned to their owners, but it certainly is not all hysteria.

beadsJanuary 20, 2009 4:54 PM

This has famously happened with expensive parrots as well. A rare breeding pair of Hyacinth Macaws were stolen from a home in Chicago. Though no ransom was declared it did send shivers through many bird owners/caretakers. A breeding pair of Hyacinths would easily sell for $25,000+

If I remember correctly the birds were recovered a couple of years later. The reward ($10,000) posters were put up in every shop catering to bird supplies I entered for years. So, yes its not just dogs and yes these stories travel through many circles not just dogs. Unfortunately, bird theft, though uncommon has been reported through the community all to often.

- beads

DJanuary 20, 2009 5:52 PM

Anyone care to provide a link to reputable source so we can verify a single case where a non-celebrity's dog was stolen?

Pat RitchieJanuary 20, 2009 7:10 PM

Strong leashes aren't going to help much against a thief who can just remove the collar... but they *will* help w/ the much more likely dog chews through leash (I know this from experience...).

another bruceJanuary 20, 2009 7:19 PM

@beauregard:

where i was raised, if you kidnap my dog, i will meet you at the ransom dropsite and kill you.

Josh RubinJanuary 20, 2009 7:25 PM

Here in New York City, we used to lend our dog, a 15 year old female shepherd mix, to a homeless person when we went into a store. The dog benefits -- she gets attention and biscuits. The homeless man benefits -- he becomes approachable, and is treated as part of the community. We benefit because somebody who cares is watching the dog.

Dog-napping is not on our minds.

kJanuary 20, 2009 7:53 PM

@another bruce: You and I must be neighbors.

I'd be far more upset if my dog were stolen than if my car was stolen.

another bruceJanuary 20, 2009 9:19 PM

@k:

me too. if my truck were stolen, it would be the problem of the farmer's insurance company.

there's an interesting security question here. is it still possible in 2009 to kidnap for ransom and have a secure dropsite where the payor couldn't kill you if he were resourceful and determined? i don't believe it is, particularly with gps units getting ever smaller. i saw a movie about 15 years back, they instructed the payor to get on a train and toss the bag out the window at the precise cellphone-instructed moment, it was an urban, commuter-type train, not the countryside, and i forget what happened after that, and the movie title itself (maybe one of you can remember), but #1 if the payor had sufficient resources, he could have people with him, one of whom might jump out of the train and await the kidnapper, and #2 he could just put explosives in the bag, either rigged to another cellphone or just to go off when picked up. kidnapping for ransom has gone out of style here, and i expect it to eventually go out of style in mexico too.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 20, 2009 10:52 PM

@ another bruce,

"there's an interesting security question here. is it still possible in 2009 to kidnap for ransom and have a secure dropsite where the payor couldn't kill you if he were resourceful and determined?"

The simple answer is yes.

Two points to consider,

1, Do you know who you are killing?

2, Do you want the hostage back?

Where kidnaping for money is prevelent it is often run by gangs.

The person who picks up the ransom money is usually a low ranking individual who is effectivly expendable.

And the hostage is released from a different location only after the money has been properly checked by other individuals.

Further as has been seen in some parts of the world the people who kidnap often sell/exchange the hostages to different groups of people who do the ransoming/execution.

And has recently been seen on television there are some parts of the world where piracy and kidnapping are such that the worlds largest oil tanker and it's crew can be ransomed in plain sight of the worlds media.

CalumJanuary 21, 2009 6:32 AM

To be fair, the only reason we have still got problems with Somalian pirates is squeamishness. If we were to sink every single boat that was taken over, piracy wouldn't be a viable business for very long.

One of Churchill's first acts on becoming Prime Minister was to sink two French destroyers, complete with their crew, rather than allow them to fall into German hands. The message such a ruthless act sends is pretty clear.

DavidJanuary 21, 2009 9:57 AM

@Clive: This does imply that the kidnapping organization can establish some sort of trust, which means an established organization, which should become a target for law enforcement. That's a perfectly possible solution in some parts of the world, but not a fully stable one.

JasonJanuary 21, 2009 11:48 AM

!!!anecdotal evidence alert!!!

In the course of six months, I had three dogs stolen from my back yard. Two of them were chipped. None of them were ever found. I lived in the 'burbs of Memphis, TN at the time and I imagine, sadly, that my 50lb babies were used as bait dogs for pit bull dog fight training. I just hope they didn't suffer too long.

AnonymousJanuary 21, 2009 2:23 PM

I am kind of confused about the "uncuttable leashes". What is the point. From the article the story goes a guy walks up, cuts the leash and runs off. Is the leash locked to whatever it is tied to? What about to the dog? Even if it is locked onto the dogs neck, most collars can be slipped off (perhaps uncomfortably for the dog, but it wont hurt him). Not to mention even if both ends are locked, you could just catch people in the process of walking the dog and steal the leash from their hands.

Jonadab the Unsightly OneJanuary 23, 2009 9:44 AM

Unless you're famous or fabulously wealthy (and thus a potential target for absurd ransom demands), or own some kind of outlandishly expensive pedigree dog (which I can't see anyone doing who's *not* being deliberately ostentations with their wealth, because in^H^Hpurebred dogs are so infamously unhealthy and usually dumb as well), I'm afraid I just can't see dognapping as a realistic threat. Dogs are very easy to come by, a commodity. Under normal circumstances, it's not worth the criminal's time to steal one. I know your dog is valuable to *you*, but that doesn't make him valuable to anyone else.

Chris LJanuary 24, 2009 10:22 AM

Attention paranoid dog owners: If you can attach an uncuttable leash, I can deattach it without cutting the leash.

EdFebruary 26, 2009 1:48 PM

We just got our cocker spaniel back today. He had been missing for three days. We called all local shelters, local police and put up flyers everywhere. Today we got an anonymous with our dogs location. It turns out a lady had him took his tags and was waiting for a reward to be posted. When we arrived at her home with the flyer she said she wouldn't give him back unless she got paid. We asked where his tags were and she simply replied, "Where is my money?" After telling her we were not paying her for doing something wrong we just picked up the dog and ran out the door. She then called the police and said we broke in and took her dog. Fortunately we had already filed reports about the lost dog and called the state police as soon as we left her house. I don't think dognapping is as much an organized crime as it is just plain scumb triing to get whatever they can out of honest people any way they can.

driaNovember 30, 2009 12:17 PM

someone is cutting my dogs collar and setting him loose. Every day! I am going broke trying to keep up with this not so funny practile joke! They should make a collar that can not be (or is very hard) to cut through. This might not seem much to you but this is exspensive and the dog, who likes to be outside is confined to the house. We can't even walk him without a collar.

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